Student group overcomes discrimination to capture pro-life award

Branford Students for Life
Branford Students for Life

Branford Students for Life.

Sam Bailey-Loomis has never been silent about her Catholicism or anti-abortion views. Even after she was pushed down the stairs and called “Mother Teresa” by fellow students at her Connecticut high school, Bailey-Loomis decided to create a student pro-life group.

Still, she likely didn’t expect the intense discrimination she would face or the award her group would go on to win. From day one, Students for Life of Branford faced enormous pressure to quit, but despite the challenges they faced, the group pushed on with a focus on helping women and girls, and educating their community.

“Starting our group was a real challenge,” explains Bailey-Loomis. “We are a pro-life group in a public high school. We went through the process of starting our group through the school board, but they never got back to us. After a month of me contacting them, going back to them, and they finally gave in and let us start.”

The group set up a display table at the 8th grade graduation that was well-received by those in attendance, according to Bailey-Loomis. The display ran into issues when the school principal looked at the fetal gestational models and images and told the group that they were inappropriate and must be taken down.

The students did what they were told, but Bailey-Loomis immediately contacted Kristan Hawkins from Students for Life of America, who informed Bailey-Loomis that she had every right to be there and to display what she was displaying. Soon Bailey-Loomis’s mother arrived and helped Bailey-Loomis and her friends put the display back up, telling the group that she wasn’t going to let them get pushed around. However, the assistant principal soon approached them, saying they had to take it down. She went as far as to get in the mother’s face. When the students asked why, the assistant principal didn’t answer, but instead knocked the fetal models to the floor and tossed the flyers around the table. Bailey-Loomis and the group picked everything back up, and the assistant principal told her that she would see her in her office the next day, but Bailey-Loomis was never called down to see her, and nothing ever became of it.

The young pro-lifers moved forward, hanging a banner in their school announcing that their group was forming. But another student told her mother about the banner, and the mother approached the school board during a meeting. She told the board that the pro-life group were terrorists and that she feared for the safety of her daughter. She also said the group “gets its directive from an extreme base of hate and intolerance […] with tactics of killing doctors, assaulting women, blowing up clinics and is terroristic in nature and has a total disregard for law and women at large.” All of this without even knowing anything about the group.

Still, the group pressed onward and found the advisor they needed in a Christian teacher at the school. They held their first meeting and waited for the pro-choicers to show up in protest. Thankfully, no one did. But after a successful first meeting of making plans, the school again attempted to shut the group down. They laid off the teacher who had become their advisor, saying that parents were complaining that he was speaking about his faith in the classroom.

The group eventually found a new advisor and tried to propose a few events to the school. They were told no on the grounds that the information on their flyers was inappropriate, and that it was the job of the school’s health curriculum to teach students about fetal development. Not surprisingly, the school’s health curriculum is run by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country. The principal told the Students for Life of Branford that the only place they could share their information was within their own group.

Despite referencing the student handbook and their First Amendment rights, Students for Life of Branford found themselves being silenced. Their flyers and bulletin board were vandalized with racist and pro-death comments. And although the school security cameras could show who was behind the vandalism, nothing would be done about it.

“I went to the principal to say that these people are offending us. That we are told we are offensive, but these people were being intolerant,” explains Bailey-Loomis. “He brushed me off. He limited our speech to no end. We tried to use the law, and he just said that he is the principal, so he makes the rules.”

But the principal couldn’t stop Bailey-Loomis and her team. They went on to raise over $900 for their local pregnancy center. They marched in their town’s Columbus Day parade, hosted a Cemetery of the Innocents, and held a baby shower for a local mother in need who chose life. At the baby shower, which was attended by the group, some community members, the mother-to-be, and her friends and family, the group was able to provide the mom with over $2,000 worth of baby gear and essentials.

Students for Life of Branford walk in the town's Columbus Day Parade.

Students for Life of Branford walk in the town’s Columbus Day Parade.

“It was great for everyone in our community to see, and it gave her some hope, and it showed the girls in our group the potential we have,” says Bailey-Loomis. “I’m so proud that we started the group. That we persisted despite the opposition. Just to even get it started! That we had the will power to start a group like this and to challenge the status quo.”

For all of their hard work and efforts, Students for Life of America awarded Students for Life of Branford with the High School Group of the Year award, saying on their website that the group “epitomizes the Pro-Life Generation and IS the Revolution in their town.” On receiving the award, Bailey-Loomis says:

I literally cannot even explain it. We’ve been through so much, just to go up there and have all my friends at home watching us. I got tons of texts from people who were so excited. It was good to have that recognition. But even without the award it’s all worth it. It’s a social movement. It’s a revolution. We’ve had such a great effect which is more than a national award could give us.

Bailey-Loomis is headed to Franciscan University next year, where she knows they have a great pro-life group. She plans to leave her high school group in good hands, with students who are as driven as she is. She hopes to continue working with them, helping out at local pregnancy centers, challenging authority, and spreading awareness.

“That’s the most important part,” she says – “spreading awareness and telling people we’re here to save lives and nothing else.”

 Video of the Board Meeting can be seen here during the February 20, 2013 meeting.

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