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Pro-Life Student Forced into Isolation on Day of Silent Witness by School Principal

Principal says the right to free speech does not apply to school property
Wed Oct 21, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Patrick B. Craine

WIARTON, Ontario, October 21, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - 16-year-old high school student Jennifer Rankin fully intended to unite her voicelessness with that of the unborn as part of the annual Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity when she arrived at school yesterday, reports Bill Henry of Sun Media.

She was impeded, however, by her school principal, who stated that the right to free speech does not apply on school property and who forced Rankin to remain in isolation for the entire day as long as she participated in the event.

During the annual Day of Silent Solidarity international campaign, which is organized by Stand True Ministries, students don red bands on their arms and red duct tape on their mouths, remaining silent while passing out fliers about the atrocity of abortion.

Rankin, 16, arrived at Peninsula Shores District School in Wiarton, Ontario yesterday morning, with the red tape over her mouth and with the simple word 'life' written upon it.  She and her mother were stopped at the door, however, by school principal Patricia Cavan, while police cruisers stood nearby.  Cavan initially told Rankin that she could not enter school property, but then consented to allowing her in the building, separated from other students.

"I was taken directly into a small room that was opposite the vice-principal's office and I was in there all day," Rankin told Sun Media.  "I wasn't allowed to speak with or see any other students and students were not allowed to come and see me and I was isolated in that room for the entire day."

While Cavan had informed students in advance that their pro-life witness would not be allowed, Rankin insists that her Charter right to free expression was infringed.  "I felt very discriminated by it," she said.  "I don't think it was right at all what happened."

Several students had joined her in the event last year, but this time Rankin was alone.  "I think a lot of people got scared and backed out," she said. "I would like to have the ability to correct this. I don't think it should be just left alone."

The youth pastor at Rankin's church, Ken Holley, expressed disappointment and insisted that the school's actions violated her rights.  "It's a day of silence and basically they lose their voice for those that never had a voice," he said. "It's pro-life. There's no arguing. They can't talk all day. They just stay silent and if anybody asks why they're silent they hand out a little sheet that says this is why."

"I guess I am disappointed that they're not allowed to have a voice, or not have a voice, actually," he said.

Cavan, who did not return a message left by LifeSiteNews.com, told Sun Media that the right to free speech does not apply on school property.  "School property is not a public place," she said. "So while absolutely we support the right to free speech in a public space, that's not school property."  She said that school policy prohibits the dissemination of one-sided information on religious, political, or other issues that are controversial.

Pastor Holley pointed out that the school does an annual 'Gay Pride' day "where everybody wears pink shirts," and that the school allows nude pictures on the wall to stand as 'art'.  "My students have to go to school and deal with that," he said, "and as soon as they try to stand up for anything, it's like, well, just be quiet, go home. I don't think that's right."

Cavan maintains that the 'Gay Pride' event is a different issue because it is about fighting homophobia and supporting rights guaranteed in the Charter.  Jennifer Rankin's cause, however, "is not an issue under human rights," Cavan said.  "It's an ethical/moral decision and everyone has the right to their view, absolutely. And I commend the students for their personal views and their desire to share their beliefs. I just want to assure that every student feels supported when those beliefs are shared."

Mary-Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition expressed dismay that the school shut down Rankin's message.  "You would think a school, as a facility of education, would be the place where free speech would flourish, not the opposite," she said.  Regarding the school's 'Gay Pride' day, she said, "There's only one side on that one, I guess, too, eh?  They're just trying to make sure that the truth doesn't get out."

David Cortman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defence Fund, told LSN that "the school should be ashamed of its hypocrisy."

"On the one hand, the school first of all is apparently picking and choosing which parts of the Charter that it wants to comply with," he said.  "It hides behind the Charter to justify its blatant promotion of the homosexual agenda, while at the same time it ignores the students' rights to free expression under the Charter."

"In my opinion, the policy and their actions, violate the Charter," he continued.  "If homosexual behaviour is a human right, even more so is life itself a human right. ... I think it's just another instance of government indoctrination that's aimed at the suppression of religious speech."

To contact the school to respectfully express your concern (LSN Guidelines on Effective Communication):

Patricia Cavan, Principal
P.O. Box 580,
115 George Street  
Wiarton, Ontario
N0H 2T0  
Phone: (519) 534-2205
Fax: (519) 370-2952
E-mail: [email protected]

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity - Students Giving Silent Witness To Life Today
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/oct/09102006.html


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