Florida student says high school rejected pro-life club for 'controversial' views

A Florida student alleges her high school rejected a request for a pro-life club and threatened teachers with termination for offering to sponsor the group. But the Naples public school denies the allegations, saying they are trying to help form the group.

Gabrielle Gabbard, a senior at Gulf Coast High School, says she was not allowed to start "Sharks 4 Life," an independent student group affiliated with Students for Life of America, as an official club for the past two months, while the school allowed dozens of other organizations, including a Gay/Straight Alliance and Animal Rights Club.

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After applying in August, Gabbard said she met with the assistant principal, Catherine Crawford-Brown, who told her Sharks 4 Life was "too political and too controversial." Two potential advisers, Gabbard claimed, were discouraged from sponsoring the club.

This led to the Students for Life of America and Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm, representing Gabbard and sending a letter on her behalf to the Collier County Public School Board on Nov. 7.

In the letter, Gabbard's advocates demanded that the school board help the pro-life club get access, assure teachers in writing they won't be fired for helping, and pass a resolution so that no other student faces similar discrimination.

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But Chad Oliver, a spokesman for the Collier County Public Schools, told Fox News the allegations are "simply wrong."

"The school has been ready to open the club but needs to have a faculty advisor/sponsor before it can open," Oliver said in a statement.

Pushing back against Gabbard's claims, the district added: "The assistant principal never met with two faculty advisors about the opening of the club. She met with a member of the non-instructional staff who supported the club and two students. At no time did the assistant principal threaten anyone with job loss. The faculty member who originally agreed to serve as a faculty advisor to the club informed the Principal on September 4 that she had decided not to do so. The assistant principal has never spoken with this faculty member about this matter."

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Michael Ross, Gabbard's attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News the school quickly changed its stance on the pro-life club and only started cooperating after being threatened with a lawsuit.

ADF’s demand letter clearly recounts Gulf Coast High School’s repeated refusal to recognize Sharks 4 Life for over three months," Ross said. "The facts leave no doubt that they were ill-treated and ignored because of their viewpoint. The only apparent attempt from GCHS to recognize Sharks 4 Life comes after a threat of legal action. Students shouldn’t have to threaten legal action to have their voice heard.“