SF Riordan high school students step out in anti-abortion presentation

Hundreds of students from Archbishop Riordan High School held a walkout on Friday at a school-wide assembly that included a prominent anti-abortion speaker.

About five minutes after the start of the presentation, during which staff members patrolled the doors, the Catholic high school students exited the theater and entered the gymnasium, as school rules do not allow them to leave the campus. A few dozen of the school’s more than 800 students remained in the theater throughout the presentation.

Lecturer Megan Almon works with the Life Training Institute, a program that aims to teach anti-abortion people to “persuasively defend their opinions in the marketplace of ideas,” and sends her lecturers to Catholic and Christian schools across the country. whole world, his website says. The official position of the Catholic Church is also anti-abortion.

The assembly follows marches by women across the country, including one in San Francisco, in support of reproductive rights as conservative states like Texas try to restrict abortion rights – frustrating timing for parents and students from Riordan.

Almon’s speech also follows Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone who has stepped up his public campaign to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another Catholic, to renounce her support for the right to abortion. Cordileone, who oversees Catholic schools in the diocese, including Riordan, is launching a $ 50,000 digital ad in which he asks viewers to pray and fast in support, calling the effort the Rose and Rosary campaign for Nancy.

Some students in Riordan were particularly upset that Almon was invited to speak during the school’s first year as a coeducational institution – Riordan had previously been a boys-only school.

Claire Ibalio, an elder and one of the students who came out, said she was keen to invite Almon and denies the opinions of pro-choice students like her.

“It’s so frustrating,” said Claire, who transferred to Riordan when Mercy High School, a girls-only school, closed last year. “It’s been so difficult to move from an empowering female environment to someone who tells me what I can and can’t do with my body.”

Ashley Coleman, also a senior transfer from Mercy, also describes herself as pro-choice, said she was also forced to step down when Almon began to compare the number of abortions in the United States to deaths in the United States. ‘Holocaust – just minutes after the start of the Holocaust. presentation.

Not all of the students felt this way. A student who stayed for the presentation, but requested that her name not be released, said she was happy to hear a point of view she often has in her social circles.

During the lecture, Almon’s talking points ranged from how embryos should be viewed as people and are no less valuable than the students in the room to comparing the logic of abortion and infanticide.

Some parents, who learned of the congregation’s existence in an email sent by the school on Wednesday, were also disappointed with the choice to bring Almon to campus, believing it to represent extreme views that do not should not be shared with impressionable adolescents and that more context is needed when discussing the abortion debate.

“I’m really disappointed with Riordan,” said Jon Bailey, whose daughter is in second grade in school and was part of the walkout. After searching for the speaker – whose name was not included in the original email to parents – he said he found her post, which focuses on defending the anti-abortion stance , as “horrible and frankly harmful”.

Bailey added that he was “incredibly proud” of his daughter for “standing up” with the other students – of all genders – who joined her.

Some parents were also surprised by the move.

“For me that was bad pedagogy and bad decision making,” said Judy Walgren, whose son goes to Riordan.

The two were particularly angry given that the speaker came in the first year the girls were allowed to attend campus.

The school administration, however, argued that the speaker was part of his Catholic education.

“The assembly was an opportunity to come together to learn more about the dignity of human life. We recognize that members of our school community, whether Catholic or not, have different views on this subject, ”Acting President Tim Reardon said in a statement. “We appreciate that those with different points of view respectfully share them today. We have offered another safe place for the students.

The school also appeared to anticipate some resistance to the speaker, writing in an email ahead of the assembly to parents:

“The administration is aware that not all Riordan students are Catholics. We understand that we live in a society where people have strong and disparate opinions on all the categories attributed to this theme… Our speaker will be here simply to explain the Catholic position, mainly regarding abortion. We ask all students to respectfully listen to the speaker, who is nationally recognized for her work on this topic.

Opinions on abortion vary widely among Catholics themselves. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of American Catholics – 56% – said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 42% said it should be illegal in all or most cases . Still, the survey found that most Catholics “favor at least some restrictions.”

And the school’s argument – that the presentation was in line with Catholic teaching – did not please students and parents – who said that politically the problem is much bigger than abortion.

Walgren said that if the assembly was really about “Catholic themes of the dignity of human life” and not politics, then “where are the speakers on the death penalty? Where are the speakers on how you should go out into the streets in the net and wash the feet of the poor and the destitute? “

Danielle Echeverria is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @DanielleEchev

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