Fargo North and Davies High Schools have officially recognized two Students for Life Clubs organized by pro-life students Brigid O’Keefe and Katie McPherson.
The approval came in response to a demand letter sent by the law firm of Students for Life of America, the Thomas More Society, on behalf of the students challenging as unconstitutional the schools’ denial of the pro-life clubs.
A spokesperson for the Fargo Public School district told Valley News Live they had nothing to say to the public about the decision.
"I am happy and thankful that the school has approved our club," said Brigid O'Keefe, a sophomore at Fargo North High. “We are thankful to the attorneys at Thomas More Society and to Students for Life of America for supporting all our efforts. We look forward to educating our fellow students on the beauty of life at all stages and offering assistance to those in need in our community. I am grateful to Fargo North for approving Spartans for Life, and we look forward to creating a thriving club at our school.”
“This victory should encourage any pro-life student to fight for the right to start a Students for Life club at her school,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “It is often in high school that the first fires of pro-life activism are kindled. Brigid and Katie are great examples of courage, standing up for their pro-life beliefs and fighting to protect the rights of the preborn.”
At Fargo North, sophomore Brigid O’Keefe had submitted her application to start a Students for Life in February 2015. School administrators put Brigid and other prospective club members through extensive questioning, including questions about their religious affiliations, before denying the club.
At Davies High School, sophomore Katie McPherson had been trying to start a Students for Life club since September 2014. For months, the school administration would not even let her apply for her club to receive official status or assign a promised room for “unofficial” club meetings.
On April 8, 2015, Thomas More Society sent a letter to the School District, stating that the District’s refusal to officially recognize the pro-life clubs constituted a violation of the students’ rights under both the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. All students who wish to form non-curricular clubs must be treated equally, even if the clubs they wish to form are religious or political.
Both schools have now approved the pro-life clubs. Davies Teens for Life members already held their first meeting, and Brigid is planning the first Spartans for Life meeting for next week.
“We are glad that the District and High School Administrators in Fargo have recognized the First Amendment rights of all students, including pro-life students,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society Associate Counsel. “High-schoolers do not lose their right to form clubs and speak their message just because they are pro-life. Rather, they should be encouraged to add their voices to the marketplace of ideas, as the pro-life students at Fargo North and Davies will now be able to do.”