Written by Del Norte Students for Life
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Del Norte Students for Life (DNSL) is the first pro-life group at Del Norte High School in San Diego, California. Kathryn Schneider, our President, and Jessica Atkins co-founded DNSL because they were inspired to become active members in the pro-life movement after being greatly impacted by the movie Unplanned. Our Students for Life group has been active for two years now!
Del Norte Students for Life was a relatively new group when the pandemic began, which made it very difficult to recruit new members in an all-virtual public high school. So, we’ve had to get creative to recruit new members and plan events with the new challenges presented due to new COVID-19 restrictions.
Perseverance & Innovation During COVID-19
We worked throughout the year to continue and increase our pro-life efforts despite the major challenges posed to our group. We used the move online to our advantage and joined students from across the country in activism events to spread the pro-life message online. We also used online platforms and social media to reach our peers as best we could and continued to host regular biweekly meetings as well as many online and in-person events.
One of the first things we did when quarantine began was jump on the opportunity to work remotely with SFLA and Students for Life Action by attending zoom pro-life trainings and participating in the National Call Days to promote voting pro-life first.
Many of our active members from the 2019-2020 school year were graduating seniors. As a result, we needed to recruit members virtually in Fall 2020. Using the internet to our advantage, we created a group website and promotional video which we shared on social media in hopes that more students would join. We became increasingly active on social media as we participated in the Sock the Vote online fall campus tour. We began the new school year with a group info meeting. We held pro-life trivia meetings and online training events such as a social media outreach training with our SFLA Regional Coordinator.
Kicking Planned Parenthood Off Campus
We also reached out to our school to examine the sexual education curriculum. We discovered that the curriculum was pro-choice and unsafe for students. So, in attempt to kick Planned Parenthood out of our school, we immediately researched the alternative sex education curriculums that comply with the California curriculum requirements. Unfortunately, California schools don’t allow for abstinence-based curriculums. However, we found a better curriculum that promotes abstinence and is fair towards the option of adoption. We then drafted a petition letter to ask the school to remove and replace its pro-choice curriculum. Our next steps are to record signatures of community members and present the petition to our school administration.
Resuming Community Activism
One of the first in-person events we were able to host was a sidewalk advocacy day at our local Planned Parenthood with 40 Days for Life. After receiving a virtual sidewalk counseling training from our Regional Coordinator, our group made encouraging signs with loving pro-life messages for the women going to the abortion facility. We also made sure to pack blessing bags including flyers for local pregnancy help organizations, and we spent the day praying for women and spreading the pro-life message. We were even able to have a conversation with a man who was interested in learning more about the reality of abortion!
More in-person opportunities such as the San Diego Stand4Life and the San Diego Walk for Life arose as the year went on. The #Stand4Life weekend consisted of virtual trainings, a local Life Chain, and Sidewalk Outreach at a local abortion facility. We were able to meet other San Diego pro-lifers at the Life Chain and also got the chance to sidewalk counsel, chalk, and pray at two of the main Planned Parenthoods in our city that weekend. The San Diego Walk for Life was a hybrid of online webinars and an in-person “car caravan” this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Attending the National Virtual High School Summit
Our group had the opportunity to attend the National Virtual High School Summit in February, and two of our leaders were even invited to speak as panelists! Our topic was Industry Impact. We shared tips with other high school leaders on how to get started with sidewalk counseling and how to remove inappropriate sex education curriculums from high schools. Moreover, we learned from the experience of other pro-life student panelists. One of the most striking topics to us was cyberbullying. It was almost prophetic as a pair of students shared their experience being cyberbullied on their group Instagram because we had a similar experience not long after.
Dealing with Cyberbullying
Our group was put to the test in late April when the minor hate we had previously received escalated to a huge cyberbullying incident. When our group was founded, we fully expected backlash from our largely pro-choice peers. However, the backlash remained minor until we posted a picture of our group’s tabling at our school Club Rush.
Our group set up a table with information about our group and abortion. We had been active for almost two years when many pro-choice students at our school and in our surrounding community suddenly reacted with extreme hate towards our group. We received several disgusting comments from students but also some encouraging discussions. One student was rude, but we asked him to come back the next day to have a discussion once we had a chance to review the sources he referenced. He didn’t return the next day for a discussion and instead commented on our Instagram post which was a picture of our tabling event.
Within two days, our post was flooded with comments, mostly by pro-choice haters. We received many cyberbullying comments and even some threats through our group’s Instagram account, email, and website. There was even a petition started to remove our group from the school. However, other students at our school responded with a petition to protect our freedom of speech. The post alone ended up with over 4,000 comments and 350 likes. Despite the overwhelming backlash and lack of response from our school, we persevered to respond with kindness and love and tried to address common misconceptions about abortion in the comments.
The best part was the support we received from some community members who encouraged our pro-life activism. We received praise for our courage to speak up about our beliefs in an environment that constantly tries to cancel us. We persevered through this event which could have been a major setback to our group, but we didn’t let the harassment stop us! We even gained a few new members as a result.
The harassment of our group both in-person and online became a major event at our high school, with most students and teachers commenting on it in some form, at school or online. We were able to use this newfound publicity as an opportunity to spread our message even more despite the extreme backlash. We were asked to interview for 2 articles in the school newspaper. We were also given the opportunity to write a blog post for the Students for Life of America website. Through this, we recounted the difficulties presented to our group and our response to them in hopes of encouraging other pro-life students to persevere.
Optimism for the Future
Recently, we have been able to resume in-person meetings due to in person school recently starting again, although still only partial attendance. We have been able to host multiple meetings because of a relaxation of restrictions in our area. In the past few weeks, we hosted a pink cross display at a local park with our Regional Coordinator, collaborated with a local parish and 40 Days for Life at a prayer and sidewalk counseling day, and met with another high school pro-life group in our area to discuss ideas for future activism events.
We are proud of how far our group has come this year as a relatively new group with many challenges and restrictions facing us. This summer, we hope to continue our sidewalk counseling efforts including collaboration events with local groups and 40 Days for Life. We also look forward to being able to meet fully in-person in the fall and hosting more events with local groups. We can’t wait to continue improving our group’s pro-life activism in our community in the coming years!