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Atheists cry foul as North Carolina school blocks secular student club

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:02 EDT
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Frustrated student via Shutterstock
 
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A fight is brewing between the administration at Pisgah High School in Waynesville, North Carolina and a group of students who want to form a secular student group. According to the national Secular Students Alliance (SSA) website, the high school students have been joined in their effort by the SSA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Four months ago a student at Pisgah approached the administration about forming a group for non-religious students. Assistant Principal Connie Weeks told the student that she needed to “look into” the feasibility of forming such a group. In a subsequent meeting, Weeks told the student that such a group wouldn’t “fit in” with the school’s current roster of extra-curricular clubs.

Besides, Weeks said, she couldn’t find a faculty sponsor for the club. At all subsequent meetings with the student, school officials refused to discuss the issue any further.

SSA reported that under the Equal Access Act, schools must appoint a faculty member to sponsor such a club if one was not immediately available. The student contacted SSA, who in turn contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Cash Wilson, the father of the student attempting to start the group, said, “As both a parent and secular activist, I am inspired by the tenacity of these teenagers who didn’t cower in their corners but instead contacted their friends and advocates at the SSA. A secular club is a welcome addition to any school, but especially a school here in the zealous mountains of North Carolina. It will help secular students will no longer feel alone and ostracized. My full respect and admiration to the student activists, the fine folks at SSA, the FFRF legal team, and the North Carolina ACLU.”

Andrew Cheadle-Ford of SSA sent a letter to the school district, followed by a second letter from Patrick Elliott, staff attorney for the FFRF and North Carolina ACLU’s legal director Christopher Brook. So far, the groups have heard nothing back.

August E. Brunsman IV of SSA said, “We always attempt to resolve situations like this by amicably informing the administrators of the rights of their secular students. However, in this case, the administrators were entirely unresponsive. We have reached out to our partners at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to get the aid of their legal team in making sure secular students at Pisgah High School don’t face unequal treatment and discrimination.”

Read the letters to the school district here and here.

[image of frustrated student via Shutterstock.com]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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