Controversy hits Pro-life Club at Blue Valley Northwest

A new club at BVNW sparks debate.

Laura+Benteman+%28Left%29+and+Emily+Yohon+%28Right%29+hold+up+signs+at+the+Rally+for+Life+event+in+Topeka+Kan.+Jan.+22.+
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Controversy hits Pro-life Club at Blue Valley Northwest

Laura Benteman (Left) and Emily Yohon (Right) hold up signs at the Rally for Life event in Topeka Kan. Jan. 22.

Laura Benteman (Left) and Emily Yohon (Right) hold up signs at the Rally for Life event in Topeka Kan. Jan. 22.

Courtesy of Emily Yohon

Laura Benteman (Left) and Emily Yohon (Right) hold up signs at the Rally for Life event in Topeka Kan. Jan. 22.

Courtesy of Emily Yohon

Courtesy of Emily Yohon

Laura Benteman (Left) and Emily Yohon (Right) hold up signs at the Rally for Life event in Topeka Kan. Jan. 22.

Megan Yates and Emma Johnson

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As a result of the BVNW pro-life club posting about their attendance at the Topeka Rally for Life on their Instagram, students took to social media to voice their opinions about the club. 

Despite the club forming in September, it wasn’t until they created an Instagram and posted photos from the rally that many students were even aware of its presence.
After seeing BVNW pro-life’s post, BVNW junior Ava Samborski talked on her instagram story about how the club made her feel, making her followers aware of the situation.

Samborski said her initial reaction to the news that BVNW had a pro-life club was shock and confusion, saying how she did not understand why her school had one. 

Acting on her confusion, Samborski went to school during the snow day on Jan. 24 to express her feelings about this club to Principal Amy Pressly. 

According to Samborski, Pressly said since the name “Blue Valley” is not copyrighted, nothing is stopping a student from using it on a sign or as part of an Instagram name.  

Samborski said she then discussed with Pressly her feelings about the club and how many girls, some of whom do not even attend Northwest, have been negatively impacted by it. 

“I told [Pressly] that this club, they are not trying to target a certain group of girls, but that has happened,” Samborski said. “I have had many girls [direct message] me and talk about how they have had abortions… and then you see my school supports pro-life, it kind of makes for an unhealthy environment.”

Another BVNW student, senior Jenna Calton, has spoken out publicly against the pro-life club as well.  

After seeing it on Samborski’s Instagram story and finding it upsetting, Calton took to Twitter to share her opinion on the club. 

Calton said the tweet received 4,300 views with almost 100 likes and 30 retweets. Calton added that she is pleased with the response the tweet has received, especially considering that for Calton, the main goal of hers was to make clear to others this club exists and to let people know that this group did not represent the overall values of BVNW.

“The big thing for me was that I wanted people to see the tweet because I do not think a lot of people knew that this group was a thing to begin with,” Calton said.  “I don’t mind that they have their club, but I don’t support them representing Northwest as a whole as being pro-life because we are a public school, and because we have different views, it is not fair to us.” 

Calton said her next step is to wait for the Blue Valley District to respond, saying how if they do not make a change, she will take further action. 

“Honestly I could go to the news with this story because it could be a headline,” Calton said. “So if Blue Valley doesn’t decide to take action and do something about this, then I will be taking it to a journalist most likely.” 

Although both Calton and Samborski may not agree with what the club stands for, both do not see any reason to have the club disbanded. They just simply do not want the BVNW name attached to it.

Additionally, even though both girls admit to being pro-choice, that alone is not the reason they have spoken out against the pro-life club. 

“While I am pro-choice, that is not why I am going against this group,” Calton said. “I am going against this group because they represented BVNW as a whole as being pro-life.” 

Along with wanting the club’s name to be changed, Calton said the end goal of hers is for everyone to understand what a group should do at a public school. 

“[My end goal] is for everybody to understand and be on the same page, that no matter what group you are you can’t represent a public school as a whole as being supportive of your views and of your ideas,” Calton said. 

In response to the attention the club has received, Activities Director Andrew Addington said if students feel uncomfortable with the club they should talk to him. He said a week following the controversy beginning, a pro-choice club had formed and was ready to start meeting.

As for the issue of using BVNW’s name, Addington said all BVNW clubs have the school name attached to them because they are representative of the student body.

“We utilize our mascot, our school name, our initials, our colors to identify a lot of our student-initiated organizations because I’m hoping that 1600 students in this building are proud of being a Blue Valley Northwest Husky,” Addington said. 

Addington said that although some parents and students have reached out to him, they were all interested in the laws that protect clubs, not the nature of the club itself.

In terms of laws, the club is protected by the Equal Access Act of 1984 which states if a school allows any non-curricular groups, they must allow all. Since Northwest has clubs ranging from a BVNW Medical club to a Gender Sexuality Alliance club, they must allow a pro-life club. 

Like any club at Northwest, the pro-life club met the criteria of having at least three members, a purpose and a sponsor, Addington said. Since this club is considered a political club, its sponsor serves as a moderator who merely enforces existing BVNW rules.

Victoria Matthews, the pro-life club sponsor and a BVNW ELA teacher, declined to comment on the club for this story.

While some clubs do receive school funding, the pro-life club doesn’t. Club members pay for all expenses including its recent trip to Topeka, to attend the Rally for Life march.

One poster used by club members at the rally contributed to the controversy by displaying the message “BVNW loves life.” 

Emily Yohon, BVNW senior and president of the pro-life club, said the reasoning behind the statement on the poster was that everyone in the club goes to BVNW and those who attended the event all supported the pro-life movement so it represented them.

With all of the negative attention they have received, Yohon said although it has been difficult, the club is attempting to answer all the criticism with compassion and positivity. 

“The criticism has been very disheartening, but we are doing our best to answer every criticism with kindness and love,” Yohon said. 

Furthermore, Yohon said despite the backlash the club has received, they will not make any changes to its name or its mission. 

“Our hope for the club is that people will see us for what we truly are; a club that believes wholeheartedly in every single person’s most fundamental right which is the inalienable right to life that was promised by the Declaration of Independence,” Yohon said.