CHARLESTON - A George Washington High School senior is suing Kanawha County Schools for presenting an abstinence-only mandatory school assembly and not following the county-wide "Reducing the Risk" curriculum.
George Aulenbacher, individually and in his official capacity as principal of George Washington High School, and Ronald Duerring, in his official capacity as superintendent of Kanawha County Schools were also named as defendants in the suit.
The case was assigned to Circuit Judge Louis H. Bloom.
A hearing was held in Bloom's courtroom on April 23. Bloom made the decision to deny Campbell's request for an injunction earlier this month.
In 2011, the Kanawha County Board of Education directed the use of the curriculum "Reducing the Risk," which is a 16-week, one hour per week course on comprehensive reproductive health education to be used in the school setting, according to a complaint filed April 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Katelyn McKensie Campbell claims prior to March 29, Aulenbacher requested that GWHS School Nurse Laura Barber contact LC Lead School Nurse Brenda Isaac about his desire to have an abstinence-only presentation to the student body.
Isaac expressed that abstinence education should be provided as part of a comprehensive reproductive health curriculum, according to the suit, but on April 8, Aulenbacher directed the distribution to the teachers' mailboxes a schedule change allowing for a previously unannounced assembly the following day and a promotional flyer about the speaker, Pam Stenzel, the suit says
Campbell claims the flyer stated that Stenzel "tackles the tough issues of sex with candor, insight and humor while challenging young people to embrace God's plan for sexual purity."
Teachers were directed not to talk to the students about the specifics of the presentation and to say only that the assembly would be about sexually transmitted diseases, according to the suit, and on April 9 at 8:30 a.m., all students in attendance at GWHS were directed to the upper gym to listen to Stenzel in a mandatory school assembly.
Campbell claims for most other assemblies, teachers had been given instructions that, should a student prefer not to attend an assembly, that the teacher should remain in the classroom with the student, but students arriving to school late or students found in other areas of the school were directed to the auditorium for the mandatory assembly in this case.
Though teachers and administration, including Aulenbacher, stood or sat at the door of the upper gym, some students "were undeterred by this barricade and attempted to leave the upper gym, but were told that they must stay for the entire presentation," the complaint states.
Campbell claims Stenzel's presentation quoted false statistics and included remarks such as, "if you are on birth control, your mother probably hates you," "small word of warning for our ninth grade girls who will date anything that walks" and "condoms aren't safe, never have been, never will be."
As a result of the assembly, Campbell exercised her First Amendment right to free speech by criticizing the presentation in published articles in the Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail on April 11, according to the suit.
Campbell claims the news stories sparked interest and outrage across the country after being reported in multiple national news sources, social media sites and newspapers across the country and she was requested to participate in an interview with CNN to be aired live at 10:30 a.m. on April 15.
On April 11, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Aulenbacher had Campbell removed from her regular class and directed that she report to the principal's office and, while in the principal's office, Aulenbacher stated to her that he was disappointed in her and asked her "how [she] could go to the press without telling [him]."
Campbell claims Aulenbacher further stated "how would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are."
Should Aulenbacher follow through with his threats to call Wellesley College to spread misinformation, Campbell would be irreparably harmed and subject to ridicule and possibly the loss of scholarships, according to the suit.
Campbell claims Aulenbacher's threats were a direct retaliation for her exercising her constitutional right to free speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Campbell was seeking for the court to enter a preliminary injunction to prohibit the defendants from retaliating against her. She is being represented by Michael O. Callaghan and Richard F. Neely of Neely & Callaghan.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-723