Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota allows a socialist club to meet and discuss socialist ideals every Thursday morning, and many are uncomfortable with the situation. The school, however, feels the student club is protected by the Equal Access Act passed in 1984. It states that no school administrator can pass judgment on school clubs.
Schools must allow additional clubs to be organized, as long as:
- Attendance is voluntary.
- The group is student-initiated.
- The group is not sponsored by the school itself, by teachers, by other school employees, or by the government. This means that such employees cannot promote, lead or participate in a meeting. However, a teacher or other school employee can be assigned to a group for "custodial purposes."
- The group is not disruptive. i.e. it "does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school."
- Persons from the community may not "direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups."
The school is required to treat all of its student-led non-curriculum clubs equally:
- Each club must have equal access to meeting spaces, the PA system, school periodicals, bulletin board space, etc.
- School officials have the right to monitor meetings.
- Officials can require all clubs to follow a set of rules, including non-discrimination policies. However, a court has ruled that religious clubs can discriminate against persons of other faiths in their selection of officers.
- The school may limit meeting times and locations, but must apply rules equally to all groups.
- The school may prohibit people from the community from attending student clubs. However, they must apply this rule equally to all groups.
Now I am skeptical that all student clubs will be permitted under these guidelines, but we'll get to that in a bit. Here's the story ...
The Young Socialists Club at Roosevelt High School is looking for new members. Their flyer asks for students to quote "Come explore the vast realm that is socialism." But also on the flyer is a picture of Karl Marx, who is best known as a revolutionary communist. One of his famous quotes, "Workers of the World Unite," is printed boldly on the handout. But Roosevelt Principal Don Ryswyk says those references do not concern him.
He says, “At Roosevelt we have young Democrats club, we have the young Republicans club and they were asking for a young Socialists club and so I saw it as an equity issue and the students talked to me about some of the things they were going to research and I also saw it as an educational club.”
Under the Equal Access Act passed in 1984, no school administrator can pass judgment on school clubs.
Linda Hallstrom with the Sioux Falls school district says, “Basically what that act says is that school students have a right to form clubs and that we as a district or at the school building level cannot discriminate based on view point of those clubs.”
That's why Ryswyk approved the new group. He says there are several student run clubs at Roosevelt, which allows teenagers with different interests to get involved.
“We love to see kids involved in clubs because they get involved in school, they make friends, and we know that kids when they get involved in school they make better students,” he says.
But he says if a club harms students, or is based on hate, it will not be accepted.
Ryswyk says, “I'm not going to allow a club into my school that's gonna be harmful or hateful or anything like that and there needs to be some good.”
With all of that said ... I wonder if this school would allow a fascist club. Not a nazi club, but a fascist club. Would they be willing to weather the storm of criticism from the general public? I doubt it, and a student should attempt it just to make a point.