Students told they can't hand out Bibles feel free speech is being violated
A Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School Bible club is saying their free speech is being violated. This comes as their principal is accused of stopping them from handing out Bibles to their friends during lunch.
Lawyers are now getting involved for the second time over whether the principal overstepped his boundaries.
The Independence Law Center in Harrisburg alleges the principal, David Harris, recently denied permission to the Christians In Action student Bible club after they asked to hand out Bibles during lunch with classmates and friends.
“Students have the ability to pass out materials to their friends and to generally they have free speech rights during the school day during non-instructional time... protected by the U.S. Supreme Court; long-standing precedent,” said Jeremy Samek, senior counsel with the Independence Law Center.
It’s also alleged Harris told students they’re not allowed to even hand out Bibles outside of the school day unless they were granted permission first from the school.
Lawyers say this is not the first time the Bible club has been denied. At the beginning of this school year Harris reportedly told the group they could not post a flyer in the school because it mentioned a Bible verse.
The flyer was approved after the Independence Law Center got involved.
“It’s curious as to why these type of things keep happening from the same principal at the school district,” said Samek.
In a statement to CBS21 News the Mechanicsburg Area School District Superintendent, Mark Leidy, says they plan on investigating the claims.
The full statement reads as follows:
MASD is aware of the concerns presented by the Independence Law Center. We received a letter yesterday from the center alleging that a student group was denied permission to distribute Bibles. MASD respects the rights of students to express themselves and distribute materials. MASD also recognizes that exercise of that right must be limited by the District’s responsibility to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights of all members of the school community. Accordingly, students do have the right to distribution of non-school materials prior to the start of the school day and after the end of the school day if they develop a plan for time, place and manner of distribution that is reviewed and approved by the administration. We plan to investigate the claims set forth in this letter and work with the students in accordance with the law and our local policy.
He goes on to say “MASD respects the rights of students to express themselves and distribute materials. MASD also recognizes that exercise of that right must be limited by the District’s responsibility to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights of all members of the school community.”
Lawyers are giving the school district until Monday to allow students to hand out Bibles during non-instructional time. Lawyers are hopeful that’ll happen.
The Independence Law Center sees about 10 of these cases every year in Pennsylvania.