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Utah high school students seek equal treatment for their conservative group

ADF attorneys represent Turning Point USA chapter, student at Copper Hills High School
First Amendment Freedom of Speech

SALT LAKE CITY – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys sent a letter Wednesday to inform Jordan School District officials that they unlawfully discriminated against a group of students because of their viewpoints.

The letter, sent on behalf of the Turning Point USA chapter at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan and student Matthew Parkinson, a member of the group, explains how school officials censored the group’s speech and denied them the same rights, benefits, and privileges that the district and school provide to other student groups, in violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act.

“Students of any political, religious, or ideological persuasion should be able to freely and peacefully speak with their fellow students about their views,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann. “School officials at Copper Hills cannot prevent students from speaking just because they disagree with their points of view. District and school officials must abide by the law, including the First Amendment, and respect the expression of different opinions in their schools.”

Since Copper Hills High School first recognized the Turning Point USA chapter in October 2021, district and school officials have been hostile to the group’s views. As an example, the letter explains how the chapter sought and received the school’s pre-approval to set up a table at lunch to share its views with other students and recruit for the chapter, but school officials abruptly put an end to the group’s speech. The assistant principal instructed the chapter’s officers to take down their posters since they did not represent “both sides.” She also informed the group that—despite the school’s pre-approval—it did not have permission, shut down their table, and marched the group’s officers to the principal’s office. School officials are now preventing the group from distributing some of its materials and requiring administrative pre-approval of any materials it wants to distribute.

District and school officials have imposed other restrictions on the Turning Point USA chapter that they have not imposed on other student groups, including hindering the Turning Point USA chapter from affiliating with its national organization by requiring the chapter to use the name “Turning Point” instead of its desired name, “Turning Point USA.”

Turning Point USA is a national organization with over 1,000 student-led chapters at high schools and colleges throughout the country with a mission to educate students about the importance of freedom, free markets, and limited government.

“Public high schools ought to foster a diverse range of ideas and perspectives and model for young people what it looks like to discuss important topics in a civil manner,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregg Walters. “Instead, at Copper Hills, we see school officials censoring speech and punishing students who adhere to a particular ideology. As our letter explains, the officials’ actions violate the students’ freedom of speech and equal access and should be corrected to avoid the possibility of legal action.”

Frank Mylar, one of more than 4,400 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of the Turning Point USA chapter and Parkinson.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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