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Colonial Forge High School is officially recognizing an anti-abortion club, which met for the first time last Wednesday.
A student filed a lawsuit in federal court last month after Colonial Forge Principal Lisa Martin denied her request to start the club, saying it doesn't relate to the Stafford County school's curriculum.
The conservative Alliance Defense Fund represented the teenager, who was not named in the lawsuit. The organization dropped the suit yesterday.
At the club's first meeting, "there were actually students on both sides of the issue and they had a great discussion about the various viewpoints," said David Cortman, senior legal counsel for the defense fund. The plaintiff described the meeting to him.
He said he thinks the club will meet weekly.
Stafford School Board Chairman Robert Belman would say only that the school system's administration worked out the issue.
"I'm pro life, but I don't have a comment to that particular club at this time," he said.
School spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim said school policy permits the anti-abortion organization.
The division's policy follows the federal Equal Access Act, which requires school boards to "permit students to conduct noncurriculum-related meetings during noninstructional time." Schools cannot deny clubs based on their "religious, political or philosophical" views.
That means students could form other controversial clubs, such as gay-straight alliances, a legal expert said.
"Sometimes people worry about a parade of horribles, and I never see this parade," said Ronald Rotunda, a law professor at George Mason University.
Cottongim said she thinks the principal is overseeing the club for the time being.
Stafford decided to permit the anti-abortion club late last month, according to court documents. A few weeks ago, Principal Martin told the plaintiff her club would receive the same "rights, benefits and privileges as all other recognized student clubs."
The defense fund waited until yesterday to drop the suit because it wanted to see how the division would handle Tuesday's "Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity," during which some students don't speak to protest abortion.
Nationally, participants wear red armbands and duct tape over their mouths.
"We wanted to make sure that went off without any problems before we resolved the issue," Cortman said.
He said he hopes the Colonial Forge club will expand to other schools.Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402