School News

Wantagh OKs Christian club, six others


The Dare to Believe Christian Club was among seven new high school clubs approved by the Wantagh School District Board of Education on Nov. 20.

The district came briefly under fire last week when a student and her attorney claimed that administrators would not allow the creation of the religious-based club. Wantagh school officials said that was never the case, and that district policies were being followed at all times.

Superintendent Maureen Goldeberg read a statement at the meeting, following approval of the organizations. “When clubs of any kind are proposed,” she said, “they undergo a review process, which often takes several weeks to bring to fruition.”

In addition to Dare to Believe, the board also approved the Accounting, American Sign Language, FIDM Fashion, Film, and Olympics of the Visual Arts clubs, and the National Science Honor Society. The organizations will be permitted to meet informally as the district moves forward with the process of securing and appointing advisors.

On Nov. 17, sophomore Liz Loverde and her attorney, Jeffrey Dys, senior council for the Liberty Institute, held a press conference saying that district administrators denied Loverde’s request for Dare to Believe. They claimed that the school district was violating the Equal Access Act of 1984, and sent a demand letter to Wantagh calling on the district to immediately allow the club. The Liberty Institute threatened a lawsuit if it did not.

Goldberg said that Wantagh has acted in compliance with the Equal Access Act throughout the club’s application process. “No one in administration at any level denied this opportunity to any of the clubs, including Dare to Believe,” she said. “No school administrator, at any level, attempted to deter the application and approval process from proceeding.”

Justin Roach, a 2014 graduate of Wantagh High School and a law student, said he was disappointed with the district’s decision, and believes clubs of a religious nature should be prohibited in public schools. “Every single club is sponsored by the school, chartered by the school and has a faculty advisor who takes an active role in its leadership and handling its business,” he said.

Randa Glasser, an attorney for the school district, said the high school is a “limited public forum” because it allows non-curriculum clubs. The Equal Access Act, she said, states that if a district allows one of these clubs to form, it has to allow all groups. “You can’t stop a club from meeting just because it’s religiously based,” she said.

Roach said that he understands the law and does not plan to challenge Wantagh’s decision. Other students in attendance told the Herald that they disagree with the creation of Dare to Believe because they feel it sets a precedent of creating clubs that are only open to limited segments of the student population. Loverde said at her press conference that the club would be open to all, and that activities would include Bible study, discussions about God and community service.

Neither Loverde nor her representatives attended the meeting.

“We are glad the school district has announced that it is doing the right thing by recognizing Liz Loverde’s club, Dare to Believe,” Dys said. “It is always a scary position for students to take a stand against government school authorities who hold significant power over their everyday lives. We look forward to Wantagh High School respecting Liz’s religious liberty at school.”