A middle school in a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is being called out for its decision to deny one of its students the right to form a pro-life club.
The incident reportedly unfolded last year, when then-8th grader Dylan Fredette made numerous attempts to launch a Students for Life group at Rio Rancho Middle School but was turned down by the school's principal, Linda Kitts.
According to the Thomas More Society, which is representing Fredette, the principal informed the 8th grader that she couldn't permit such a club because it would be too controversial and unfair to those on the opposing side of the issue.
"Rio Rancho Middle School currently allows various non-curriculum clubs, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club, Pay It Forward Club, and Chess Club. Kitts' only explanation to Dylan regarding her refusal to allow the club was that the group's message would be too controversial and not 'fair,'" Thomas More Society Special Counsel Joan Mannix noted.
"That basis for denial violates Dylan Fredette's rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Rio Rancho Public Schools' own policies," she said.
Principal Kitts, however, insists she has no memory of the November 2017 conversation.
But Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, seemed skeptical of Kitts' claims.
"It is shameful that Rio Rancho Middle School, a taxpayer-funded school, has been discriminating against pro-life students for almost a full year now," she charged. "The school has appallingly and disgustingly continued to throw up illegal obstacles in the way of students who want to start a group to reach out to their peers and educate them about the injustice of abortion."
"We strongly support the students who are fighting against their own school for their basic free-speech rights," Hawkins said, adding that school administrators are either "willfully ignorant or deliberately anti-free speech against pro-life students."
Thomas More attorneys have sent a demand letter to administrators stating that the school's actions are "unconstitutional and must be reversed."
Meanwhile, Fredette's younger brother, Isaiah, who is now a 7th grader at Rio Rancho Middle School, is taking up his brother's cause and vowing to start the pro-life club his older brother was banned from forming.
"Should the school deny Isaiah Fredette's renewed request for permission to start Phoenixes for Life, that would similarly violate his constitutionally guaranteed liberties," Mannix said.