Federal court to Ann Arbor Public Schools: stop gagging student speech on Proposal 3

(The Center Square) – A federal court has ordered Ann Arbor Public Schools to stop gagging conservative students’ political speech about Proposal 3.

The court order follows Skyline High School…

(The Center Square) – A federal court has ordered Ann Arbor Public Schools to stop gagging conservative students’ political speech about Proposal 3.

The court order follows Skyline High School officials’ refusal to read a conservative senior’s and Republican Club President’s statement during announcements, citing its political nature.

On Nov. 1, the Thomas More Law Center, a national nonprofit public interest law firm, sued AAPS and officials of Skyline High School in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for allegedly censoring conservative student speech.

The Court held a hearing on Nov. 4, and Federal District Court Judge Paul D. Borman granted the motion for the temporary restraining order.

Borman wrote: “The Court finds that Defendants seek to silence Plaintiffs’ appropriate speech as to Proposal 3 by refusing to broadcast it with their morning announcements, while permitting students in favor of Proposal 3 to cut classes, and to demonstrate on school property in favor of Proposal 3.”

Proposal 3, if approved, would enshrine a new, broad “fundamental right” to reproductive freedom into the state Constitution that includes abortion, prenatal care, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, miscarriage management, and infertility care.

If voters approved the question, it would allow elected officials to regulate abortion after fetus “viability,” or about 23 weeks to 24 weeks into pregnancy but not prohibit it if medically needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health.

On Nov. 2, TMLC filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, asking the court to order the announcement shared over the school’s public address system at the earliest possible time. The election is on Nov. 8.

On. Nov. 4, Borman ordered the school to read the statement over the Skyline High School’s public address service during ordinary announcements on Nov. 7.

The statement said that if Proposal 3 is passed, “it would eliminate health and safety regulations, legalize late term and partial birth abortion, no longer require physicians to perform abortions, and eliminate informed consent laws.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of David Nielsen and his minor son, alleged several violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Access Act. Erin Mersino, TMLC’s Chief of Supreme Court and Appellate Practice, handles the case.

“The Constitution protects a student’s right to have a different viewpoint from others and share it within the walls of a public school,” Mersino said in a statement. “How else will students learn tolerance toward opinions to which they disagree or how to thrive in our pluralistic society?” The Supreme Court cautioned against viewpoint discrimination in the schools, warning it creates ‘enclaves of totalitarianism.’”

The lawsuit says Skyline High School officials routinely have allowed students and student groups to share pro-choice and left-leaning viewpoints over its public address system, including promoting abortion and the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the morning announcement, AAPS said that Proposal 3 supporters walked out of class, and marched one lap around the building.

AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift said in a statement that “AAPS recognizes the rights of students who may choose to exercise their first amendment rights regarding a walkout or protest event; the AAPS remains viewpoint neutral on student speech. “

Swift said that students would be supervised during protests whether they walk out or continue instruction in the classroom.

“All students will be required to remain respectful and follow student guidelines for safety, including remaining on campus, unless parents have made prior arrangements for leaving campus,” Swift said. “The safety and welfare of all our students and staff remain our number one priority at all times in the AAPS.”