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Voices United sues CHS for not allowing pro-choice poster

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The poster that Voices United had rejected from CHS administration.

The poster that Voices United had rejected from CHS administration.

A timeline of recent events

Voices United, a club at CHS, has filed a lawsuit against the school after having its pro-choice poster rejected after multiple iterations. The lawsuit comes on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding the pro-life poster. Made by Teens For Life, another CHS club, the poster was taken down after originally being approved by administration. Following legal threats from the Liberty Counsel, a Christian ministry nonprofit headquartered in Florida, an agreement was reached that the poster would be put back up on Feb. 23 and kept there for 10 school days. The poster was removed on March 9.

“The school made a statement in allowing a pro life poster on the wall after the policy change,” Jack Missler, Voices United president and senior, said. “Whether they realized it or not, they made a political statement. When administrators allowed that poster but rejected ours, they committed an act of discrimination. The school had the right to not have any political statement at all, but once they made one, they have to allow the other side.”

According to Missler, Voices United is a student advocacy group that works to connect CHS students to administrative members of local and national government in order to have their voice heard. Voices United was approved to become a club on Feb. 28 by CHS administration and made the pro-choice poster in order to provide an alternative viewpoint to the pro-life poster that was re-hung in main cafeteria on Feb. 23.

“We have no political bias – the reason we put up a poster was because we had some members who felt their voice wasn’t heard so we gave them the tools to be heard,” Missler said. “If the situation had been reversed and it was a pro-life message that wasn’t being advocated, Voices United would have proudly stood behind that student.”

According to Missler, legal action was the last resort, after previous meetings with administration did not end with a resolution.

“We met with administration five times total in order to try and diffuse the situation,” Missler said. “I promised not to make any official statements to outside media. I repeatedly changed the size and message of the poster, but when an agreement couldn’t be reached, I had no other choice but to pursue legal action.”

Jan Mensz, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing Voices United in the lawsuit. He said he believes that CHS’s application of its signage policy violates the First Amendment.

“Under the First Amendment, when a school opens up a medium to post messages, it must allow both viewpoints on an issue. So, when a school makes an exception for one group, it must make that same exception for all groups. That’s the legal framework which we have filed the lawsuit under. We feel that in this case the contrast is pretty clear as both groups are speaking on the same subject matter, abortion.”

Voices United meets every other Tuesday in Room E239 from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Its first meeting was on March 7, where topics included health care and school policy.

The Teens For Life poster that was re-hung in main cafeteria

Club sponsor Kimi Fellers could not be reached for comment.

Due to impending litigation, both Principal John Williams and Assistant Principal Brittany Wiseman, who is head of clubs and club signage, declined to comment.

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