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Court puts hold on policies used against 'Abortion is not Healthcare' T-shirt

School district agrees to court order that halts enforcement of policies while student’s lawsuit proceeds

SCRANTON, Pa. — A middle school student is temporarily free “to wear his ‘Abortion is not Healthcare’ t-shirt, and other pro-life and/or religious t-shirts,” according to a federal court order issued Monday. The West Shore School District agreed to the order, which also prohibits school officials from enforcing problematic policies challenged by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys in a lawsuit filed Oct. 5, after the student was prohibited from wearing the shirt because “it might insult somebody.”

“Pro-life students shouldn’t be censored for their views,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “It’s clearly unconstitutional to prohibit a student’s message on the grounds that someone might not like it. That’s why we’re pleased that school district officials are willing to halt enforcement of these flawed policies while this lawsuit goes forward. This will allow students to appropriately exercise their First Amendment rights during the course of litigation.”

Officials at Crossroads Middle School in Lewisberry ordered the student to remove the shirt on Sept. 8, the day of President Obama’s public video address to students, because the officials deemed the shirt “inappropriate,” saying it might insult somebody. The school routinely allows other students to wear a wide variety of messages on their clothing.

The temporary order prevents enforcement of two school district policies: One is a “student expression” policy, which prohibits speech that “seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view” and speech that “contain[s] material otherwise deemed harmful to impressionable students.” The other is a “dress and grooming” policy that prohibits “clothing which creates a hostile educational environment or evidences discriminatory bias or animus.”

ADF-allied attorney Randall Wenger with the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg is assisting with the case, E.B. v. West Shore School District, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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David A. Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.