INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – After allowing an anti-abortion student group to hang a banner in its cafeteria, an Indiana high school wrongfully denied the same opportunity to a pro-abortion rights group, according to a federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Carmel High School student group Voices United claims in its lawsuit filed Wednesday in Indianapolis federal court that the school denied its members an equal opportunity to place a banner in the school cafeteria that showed support for abortion rights.
The five-page complaint claims the group’s First Amendment rights were violated by the school’s decision to not allow the hanging of the poster, and seeks a judgment that would force the school to allow it.
According to the lawsuit, the conflict started in November when an anti-abortion student group called Teens for Life had their banner taken down by school officials for violating a policy prohibiting advocacy signs from being displayed in the cafeteria.
Teens for Life obtained legal counsel and rather than prolonging the matter, Carmel High School allowed the banner to be displayed for 10 school days.
Voices United claims it wanted to post a sign that supported abortion rights for the same 10-day window but its request was denied by the school.
“The defendants’ refusal to allow Voices United to post signs in the same manner as Teens for Life is viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit lists Carmel Clay Schools and the unnamed principal of Carmel High School as defendants.
Voices United seeks an injunction ordering the school to allow it to post its advocacy sign in the cafeteria for 10 school days. The group is represented by ACLU of Indiana attorney Jan Mensz.
The school district said in a statement Thursday that Voices United did not become a student club until Feb. 28 and has not completed the requirements to post signs in the high school, including the submission of a club logo and the draft of a proposed sign.
“While we fully support our students’ First Amendment rights, the law does not treat school buildings and grounds as public places open to unfettered exercise of free speech,” it said. “Schools are allowed to determine the time, place and manner of student expression and can prohibit expression as long as it applies that prohibition equally. As such, we have moved forward applying our new signage rules equitably among our more than 150 student clubs at the high school.”