The high school cheerleader’s case recently heard by the Supreme Court has far-reaching implications on student free speech and whether it can be punished by schools.
Off campus and outside school hours, the teen made a vulgar Snapchat post expressing her disappointment over not making the varsity squad that was reported by another student to school staff. The cheerleader was suspended from the team “to avoid chaos.”
She and a former president are not the only ones having issues over free speech rights.
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Pro-life students are all too familiar with similar retaliation by fellow students and school administrators for their free speech expressions. Unlike the cheerleader’s language, it is not vulgarity that prompts crackdowns on pro-life free speech, but the expression of a worldview that counters the prevailing pro-choice narrative in higher education.
For Students for Life chapters nationwide, these attacks on free speech have not let up, imposing additional obstacles on the existing challenges of completing college in a time of pandemic. The following is a small sampling of the hostility pro-life students endured over just the last two semesters.
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At Emory School of Medicine, the heckler’s veto prevented Toni McFadden – a Black woman who has had an abortion and now serves as minority outreach director at Students for Life – from delivering a speech on abortion. Medical students at the school deemed McFadden’s position, educated by her lived experience, “sadistic, unjust, and detrimental.”
And these voices were able to shout down McFadden’s, even though she had been invited by other Emory medical students who desired to hear her perspective and engage in dialogue.
In Colorado, pro-abortion students are being used by the political organization New Era Colorado to shut down universities’ ability to make their students aware of free health care resources if the providers do not champion abortion. At Colorado State University, pro-abortion activists are working bar the Alpha Center from advertising its services to students.
“These resources are provided at no cost to clients, in contrast to the Planned Parenthood across from campus,” wrote Maggie Sayers, president of the school’s Students for Life chapter. Sayers is worried about both the free speech rights of her group, and about the prospect of Planned Parenthood having a dangerous monopoly on students in need of health care services at her school.
At the public University of Northern Iowa, UNI Students for Life was labeled a “hate group” by student government and denied its application to form. One student government member, echoing many others, claimed that a Students for Life group at UNI would “violate women’s rights,” saying “I’m sorry but I don’t want a group on campus that’s… if I’m pregnant they’re gonna try to force me not to abort my child.”
To “avoid chaos” or force group think, schools sometimes shut down the free speech rights of pro-life students.
The situation had to be escalated to the university’s president for a resolution in favor of the group’s First Amendment right to form.
At Minnesota’s Winona State University, pro-life students who were demonstrating in a silent and peaceful Life Chain event (which occur nationwide simultaneously) were heckled by pro-abortion students. The students called attendees, which included their fellow students as well as community members and young children, Nazis and sexists while playing Cardi B’s explicit song “WAP” over a loud speaker.
Winona Students for Life president Jamie Scherdin was sharing information about the demonstration in a social media video when one of the heckling students is caught on audio taunting her, “When you get raped and get rid of your child, I’m going to laugh, b—-.”
At too many institutions, young, impressionable students are often forced to choose between exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights or face threats to their reputation, including threats of violence. Yet students convicted by the belief that abortion is wrong battle for their basic right to express their views in the face of woke orthodoxy that demands they either fall in line with the pro-choice position or stay silent.
A recent opinion piece by the editorial board of the Boston College The Heights cautioned student organizations about the repercussions of their chosen speakers on campus in an article titled: “To Promote Dialogue, Student Organizations Should Not Invite Prejudiced Speakers.” They noted that my “Lies Feminists Tell” tour on campus has fostered civil debate. Yet, they wrote speakers can create “a hostile, divisive environment on campus.”
To “avoid chaos” or force group think, schools sometimes shut down the free speech rights of pro-life students, caving into a mob mentality and failing in their responsibility to teach students how to respectfully learn from and even disagree with each other.
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The Biden-Harris administration touts plans for free child care and free community college, but the nation’s leaders need to spend more time focused on protecting what is already free – our constitutionally guaranteed speech – especially at taxpayer-funded colleges and universities.
We don’t need politically correct instruction and woke punishments. We need to hear from each other.
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