Last week Kate Murray, a student at Sacred Heart Greenwich Girls’ school in Connecticut, was given an ultimatum: ‘Remove a Planned Parenthood sticker from your laptop computer or be expelled.’
But, according to this report, the school quickly backed down after students and parents expressed outrage. Many sent letters to the administration to express their their anger and more than 2,900 people signed an online petition supporting Murray. The petition stated:
Unless Kate is allowed her freedom of speech, all of my future donations that would have been allocated to Sacred Heart Greenwich will now and forever be donated to Planned Parenthood.
This sent the school into a blind panic, and it quickly backed down. Kate’s mother Tracy said this week:
The school has reversed their earlier decision and is allowing Kate to leave the sticker on her laptop. Kate has chosen to continue to display the sticker and is happy to remain a part of such a special community.
We are moved by the outpouring of support by the alumnae and the community at large and are heartened by its encouragement of one young woman’s voice.
Murray was told by administrators of the school that the Planned Parenthood sticker on her laptop would not be tolerated. She was given the choice of leaving the school immediately or leaving at the end of the academic year if she kept the sticker on.
In an Op-Ed, Head of School Pamela Hayes, above, suggested that expelling Kate was now out of the question.
We would never dismiss a student for what she believes or a cause she supports and will not now.
Sacred Heart discourages students from displaying political stickers, banners and buttons on campus and sometimes instructs students to take them down, Hayes wrote.
Some have misinterpreted our position as opposition to a specific organization or an attempt to shut down independent thinking on our campus. We believe that despite the powerful role these communications tools may play in the public square, their presence in a private educational environment can stifle learning and limit honest debate …
While, of course, not all messages on stickers are controversial or offensive, political, provocative or promotional displays can have unintended consequences in an academic setting.
The Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion and artificial contraception. Planned Parenthood counts these among its health services, which include cancer screenings, pregnancy care and other women’s health measures.
Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport consulted with Hayes on her decision to ask Kate to remove the sticker. The diocese said in a statement last week:
The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is almost universally understood, as is its consistent pro-life ethic, which defends the right to life of all those among us, particularly the most vulnerable in our society,
As such the diocese fully supports the commitment of Head of School Pamela Hayes to affirm the Church’s teaching, while also recognizing and respecting the right of students to question and challenge as they grow in the learning process.
Nicole Narea, a Sacred Heart Greenwich alumna and legal and political journalist at Law360, said while she respects her alma mater’s legal right to limit student expression, she does not appreciate when that right is applied arbitrarily.
She wrote in an email last Friday:
Pamela Juan Hayes touts school policy of being apolitical outside of the classroom. Not only does that policy sound wildly unrealistic in 2018, but it has also been selectively enforced. There was a pro-life student club during my time there, and they went down to Washington, DC for yearly rallies.
Fellow students had Obama campaign stickers on their laptops, but they were not ordered to remove them.
Alumna Kyra Baldwin, who graduated in 2013, said the school’s pro-life club sometimes gave presentations at the school’s morning meeting that included images of foetuses. She was disappointed when she and some classmates were blocked from starting a Gay Straight Alliance club at the school because the Diocese opposed it, she said.
We felt the existence of a pro-life club while there was no pro-choice club or GSA allowed was extremely hypocritical, especially when the pro-life club was so active.
Sacred Heart Greenwich parents have shared many opinions over the school’s handling of the sticker situation.
Said Lesley King:
I support Planned Parenthood and the the amazing and necessary women’s health services they provide. And in addition I support a young woman’s right to have a strong opinion about any issue and express that with bumper stickers or slogans on clothing.
One mother, who requested anonymity so her daughter would not be retaliated against, said she plans to pull her daughter out of the school at the end of the year.
I don’t want her there. We marched in the Women’s March. We donate to Planned Parenthood. She is in the school because we want her to be able to speak up.
But another mother, who also is an alumna, and who requested anonymity to protect her daughter, said she thought Kate Murray should have just taken off the sticker right away.
It is a Catholic school so these are the values that they feel they want to embrace, I think this is sad that this is happening.
However, she noted that her daughter and other students support Kate and want her to be able to keep the sticker.