School Wants Abortion Foes Kept from Students | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

School Wants Abortion Foes Kept from Students

WASHINGTON (CN) - On the morning of Nov. 16, elementary school students arriving at Two Rivers Public Charter School were greeted by an 8-by-6 foot banner that read "They kill babies nearby! Tell your parents to stop them," allegedly held by a man who spent five years in prison for possessing a pipe bomb he planned to use to blow up an abortion clinic.

Now Two Rivers seeks an injunction to prevent the group of anti-abortion protestors, who object to a Planned Parenthood clinic set to be opened next year nearby, from staging their demonstrations outside the school, according to a complaint filed in Washington, D.C., Superior Court on Wednesday.

Two Rivers has been in operation since 2003 and now enrolls roughly 500 students between the ages of three and 14, according to the complaint. Two of its buildings are bright blue structures that stand across the street from one another near Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington.

The elementary school is also directly across the street from the future site of a Planned Parenthood facility.

"Laid bare, defendants' plan is to stop the construction of the adjacent Planned Parenthood facility by engaging in a concerted effort to aggressively confront students, harm their emotional well-being, upset their parents and guardians, and ultimately damage the school's reputation with the community," the complaint says.

The first protest the school mentions in its 30-page complaint occurred on Aug. 27, during parent-student-teacher conferences. That morning three people set up large posters with pictures of dismembered fetuses on them, positioned so students and parents had to pass them before entering the school, the school claims in the complaint.

Lauren Handy, one of the five protestors named as defendants in the suit, shouted at students - some of whom are as young as three - and parents who were entering the elementary school, according to the complaint.

"Tell your parents that you don't want to go to school next to a baby-killing center," Handy allegedly yelled at students and parents entering the school.

On Nov. 1, Jonathan Darnel, another protestor named in the complaint, sent an email to nine Two Rivers officials urging them to stop the Planned Parenthood construction by citing nine disturbances the clinic would bring with it, according to the complaint.

The email warned Two Rivers administrators of people "you wouldn't want your students interacting with" walking to the clinic; potential violence between "abortion-minded women" and their significant others; Planned Parenthood's "overtures" to middle-schoolers in order to "hook them on the perverse sexual lifestyle that they promote;" and the "loud" protests of anti-abortion sidewalk counselors trying to talk women out of abortions, according to the complaint.

At the end of the message Darnel insisted if the school didn't respond he would "feel a moral obligation to alert the community (including the parents of your students) [himself]," the complaint says.

"I'm sure you don't want to see me, my anti-abortion friends and our graphic images any more than we want to be in your neighborhood," Darnel wrote in bold type in his email, which is reproduced in the complaint.

Two weeks later Darnel, Handy, a man named Robert Weiler Jr. and another unidentified person were back outside the school holding the 8-by-6 foot sign near the student drop-off lane, the school says. The group constant moved around the school to thwart Two Rivers' attempts to shuttle students around the protests, according to the complaint.

Weiler was sentenced in 2006 to five years in prison after he was caught with a pipe bomb and a gun he intended to use to attack an abortion clinic in nearby Greenbelt, Maryland. He was released in 2011, but was arrested again in 2014 outside the same facility, according to the complaint.

The school says that at another protest, Larry Cirigano - also a named defendant in the suit - stood near the entrance of the middle school holding a sign with a picture of a bloody aborted fetus. Darnell shouted at students entering the school, "They are going to murder kids right next door if your parents don't do something about it," according to the complaint.

Two Rivers claims the protests and others planned for the coming months have caused irreparable harm to the school and its students. Some children have reported feeling "upset and sick," sometimes opting to stay away from the school, according to the complaint.

"One student was so upset by this incident that he began to feel sick and had to go home," the complaint says. "He was only able to return to school the next day with the promise that the school counselor would meet him at the front door."

The school seeks injunction preventing Darnel, Weiler, Handy, Ruby Nicdao and Cirigano from entering Two Rivers Public Charter School property, from blocking or obstructing access to the building, and from gathering within a reasonable distance of the elementary and middle school buildings during school hours, according to the complaint.

Darnel, Handy, Nicdao and Cirigano did not respond to requests for comment made in emails and phone calls to their personal accounts or to organizations with which they are associated. Contact information for Weiler could not be located in time for publication.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.