NEW YORK, January 12, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A high school principal’s decision prohibiting a student from wearing his pro-life shirt in school has been overturned by a federal district court. Judge Elfvin of the Western District of New York signed a permanent injunction ordering Fillmore Central High School located in Fillmore, New York to allow the student to wear his pro-life shirt to school.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, represented the student. Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, stated: “This student courageously took a stand for his views and our constitution. The ruling is clear—public schools don’t have the right to silence the pro-life speech of students.”
The student’s shirt is distributed by the American Life League’s Rock for Life group and displayed the following message: “Abortion is Homicide. You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation. Rock for Life.” Fillmore Principal Kyle Faulkner told the student that he could not wear his shirt in school. The student was sent home for the day when he respectfully replied that he had a right to wear the shirt. The student then contacted the Thomas More Law Center.
The Law Center attempted to amicably resolve the dispute by sending a letter to school officials explaining that students have a First Amendment right to peacefully express their views at school. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. However, after school officials refused to acknowledge the student’s right to free speech, the Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit against his school for forcing him to remove his pro-life shirt and barring his free-speech rights.
The Thomas More Law Center was assisted by Chris Ferrara, of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, who acted as local counsel.
On September 6th, Judge Elfvin issued a preliminary injunction ruling that the student’s First Amendment rights had been violated, and ordered the school to allow him to wear his pro-life shirt to school until the lawsuit was resolved.
This past December, Judge Elfvin permanently ordered the school to allow the student to wear clothing in school that expresses his pro-life message. The judge also ordered the school district to pay the student nominal damages. The judge awarded a total of $24,600 in attorneys’ fees to the two law firms.
Julie Shotzbarger, Trial Counsel with the Thomas More Law Center, who handled the case, commented, “Students at Fillmore were allowed to wear all manner of shirts, including rock band shirts depicting bloody skulls, and shirts promoting sex, yet this public school singled out our client to silence his peaceful pro-life message.”