Slap on Wristband

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Roswell, NM – Late yesterday, Liberty Counsel filed a complaint in federal court in New Mexico to stop the unconstitutional censorship of a group of students at Roswell High School and Goddard High School called “Relentless in Roswell.”

The student group had previously handed out food, hot chocolate, and candy canes to the student body and faculty without opposition or prior permission from the school. In addition, the students had helped janitors with the trash and assisted fellow students with their lunch trays. The students also distributed rocks with affirming words such as “U are wonderful” painted on one side and “Psalm 139” on the other. Christian messages were included, and there was never any objection.

School officials never objected to the group’s activities until one day before class, students handed out small rubber models of preborn babies. The models showed the babies at 12 weeks gestation and were each labeled with Biblical references and pro-life messages. School officials seized hundreds of the baby models and told the students, “It’s time to shut this down. Some people are getting offended.” The models were even confiscated from students who were not distributing them.

The school claimed its policy prohibiting “advertising” and “promotional activities” required students to obtain prior permission, but no approval had ever been required for any other activities of the group. Furthermore, they were not advertising anything but were simply exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion by sharing their viewpoint and faith with other students. However, the students were then pulled out of class and instructed by Principal Ruben Bolaños to cease their “Christian” acts because they had made their point.

The superintendent then suggested the students embrace a less controversial message of abstinence and gave them permission to individually hand out abstinence wristbands. But when one student gave out the wristbands on the terms suggested by the superintendent, he was punished with a suspension.

Steve Crampton, General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, commented: “The fact that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate should not be an alien concept to school administrators, even in Roswell. Schools violate the constitutional rights of students by requiring them to get permission before sharing their viewpoints with classmates during noninstructional time.”

This article is excerpted from a Liberty Counsel press release.