Saucon Valley School District superintendent Jaime Vlasaty is standing by her decision to revoke the controversial After School Satan Club’s permission to meet on school property, legal representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday.
ACLU attorneys are representing The Satanic Temple and the Reason Alliance; the organizations which sponsored the recently-formed club that is unaffiliated with the district.
As a group sponsored by a religious organization, the club was granted permission to meet on district property and a flyer about it was distributed to families last month. Its first meeting was scheduled to be held Wednesday, March 8.
Some families, however, objected to the club meeting at Saucon Valley Middle School, and after the controversy spread to social media and became news classes in the district were canceled over an alleged threat referencing the club was made against the school district. Authorities later charged a 20-year-old North Carolina man with making the alleged threat and said they plan to extradite him to Pennsylvania.
Vlasaty announced at the Feb. 28 school board meeting that she had rescinded the group’s permission to meet because it allegedly violated a district policy that governs the use of school facilities by community organizations.
The ACLU responded to her decision with a letter in which it equated her decision with the approval of a “heckler’s veto” and in which it gave her an ultimatum to either reverse the decision to ban the club by Tuesday, March 7 at noon or potentially face a lawsuit.
On Wednesday, ACLU representatives confirmed they have been informed by the district that it “will not reverse its decision to deny the After School Satan Club access to school facilities.”
“Last week, the ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the district notifying officials that the First Amendment requires them to grant the club equal access to school facilities,” it said. “As the letter explained, the district may not discriminate against the club or its sponsor, The Satanic Temple, because of threats made by others trying to impede the club’s exercise of its free-speech and religious-freedom rights.”
“It’s unfortunate that the school district is doubling down on its unconstitutional and discriminatory action against the club and The Satanic Temple,” said deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania Sara Rose in the statement. “We are consulting with our clients as they carefully consider their next steps.”
Vlasaty did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her decision to uphold rescinding the club’s permission on Wednesday.
Opinion about the club and whether it should be allowed to meet on school property remains divided both in the school district and beyond.