A high school in North Carolina is under fire for allegedly not allowing students to form a secular club on campus, saying such a club would not "fit in" with the rest of the student population.
Kalei Wilson and her brother, Ben, have reportedly been trying for months to establish a chapter of the of Secular Student Alliance at Pisgah High School in Canton, but they claim they have been refused by the school's administrators, who allegedly told the siblings, "we don't need a group like that," and that a secular-themed student club was "not a good fit" for the school.
After the administration made no progress on approving of the club, Kalei Wilson contacted the Secular Student Alliance, which sent a letter to the school asking them to accept the group. The school ignored the letter, causing the SSA to get in touch with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, which also sent a letter to the superintendent of Haywood County Schools. These groups are also awaiting a response.
The letter sent by the atheist groups argues that by not accepting the secular club, the school violated the Equal Access Act, which requires schools receiving government funds to allow student clubs to have equal access to school resources without discrimination regarding religious or political beliefs.
The Equal Access Act states that if no faculty sponsor can be found to lead a group, the administration must assign one. The Wilsons were reportedly told that no school sponsor could be found for leading the group.
"We always attempt to resolve situations like this by amicably informing the administrators of the rights of their secular students," said August E. Brunsman IV, executive director of the SSA, in a statement.
"However, in this case, the administrators were entirely unresponsive. We have reached out to our partners at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to get the aid of their legal team in making sure secular students at Pisgah High School don't face unequal treatment and discrimination."
None of the atheist groups have reportedly received a response from the school board, and school officials have not commented to media outlets on the issue. Kalei Wilson told the New York Daily News in a recent interview that her whole intention behind starting the club was to give secular students a place to socialize and to show that students don't need to be religious to do good in the community.
"It's not fair to people like me who don't have a place to go to meet like-minded thinkers," Wilson told the media outlet. "We just wanted to prove that we can be good without God."
"We are not bad people," Kalei said. "We deserve to be treated the same as everyone else."