School districts should set policies about religion in public schools

Students should be allowed a reasonable number of excused absences, without penalties, to observe religious holidays within their traditions.

The use of art, drama or literature with religious themes also is permissible if it serves a sound educational goal in the curriculum, but not if used as a vehicle for promoting religious belief. Sioux Falls School DistrictF. This is the landmark United States Supreme Court case holding that use of school facilities must be offered on a nondiscriminatory basis even if the requester is a religious organization.

What about religious objections to some holidays? Factual and legal issues may arise that must be considered in each circumstance. The School Board supports the inclusion of religious literature, music, drama, and the arts in the curriculum and in school activities provided it is intrinsic to the learning experience in the various fields of study and is presented objectively.

Sioux Falls School District, 8th Cir.

How to Handle Religious Holidays in Public Schools

If the approach is objective and sensitive, neither promoting nor inhibiting religion, this study can foster understanding and mutual respect for differences in belief. Fairfax County School Board, F. Shenandoah County School Board, F. How do you deal with holidays in your classroom?

Excusal requests may be especially common in the elementary grades, where holidays often are marked by parties and similar non-academic activities. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary.

Teachers should avoid this by teaching through attribution, i. Students shall not be required to attend off-site religious instruction, nor may students be required to leave the public school facilities during the designated time of this off-site instruction.

Vitale, ; Abington v. When should teaching about religious holidays take place? Share in the comments section! It is the intent of this policy to recognize that school facilities are often made available for noncurriculum-related purposes to students as well as to nonstudents, and it is further the intent of this policy that such use shall be offered on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.

It is the intent of this policy to recognize that schools may offer a release time for students to leave the public school facilities for off-site instruction, including religious instruction.

The several holidays throughout the year which have a religious and secular basis may be observed in the public schools. Do religious holidays belong in the curriculum? Nativity pageants or plays portraying the Hanukkah miracle are not appropriate in the public school setting.

Any religious instruction that occurs during the release time shall not be on school premises, shall not be conducted by school personnel, and no academic credit shall be given for such instruction. The term "sponsorship" includes the act of promoting, leading, or participating in a meeting.

Teachers must be alert to the distinction between teaching about religious holidays, which is permissible, and celebrating religious holidays, which is not. School concerts that present a variety of selections may include religious music.

Student-initiated expressions to questions or assignments which reflect their beliefs or non-beliefs about a religious theme shall be accommodated. The districts calendar should be prepared so as to minimize conflicts with religious holidays of all faiths. Students may verbally express their ideas to other students during noninstructional time so long as their speech is not disruptive to the ordinary operation of the school and does not infringe on the rights of other students.

As it relates to the distribution of religious literature, several federal court cases have been used to outline this portion of the policy.

Religion in the Schools

Because the District serves students of every creed and none, it must never appear to coerce students toward any particular belief. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of Grievances.SCHOOL BOARD POLICY REGARDING RELIGION.

Symbols, Music, Art, Drama, and Literature. Sections A and B of the policy are taken verbatim from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals case of Florey v.

Sioux Falls School DistrictF.2d (8th Cir.), cert. denied U.S. (). This Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals case found that. School districts that do not make the effort to develop their own policy may find themselves unprepared for the intensity of the debate that can engage a community when positions harden around a live controversy involving religious expression in public schools.

School districts should set forth clear policies regarding religion in the public schools that satisfy both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment.

Parents should become involved in the process of discussing these policies with educators, and approach difficulties with an understanding that mistakes and misinformation, not malice. It is the policy of the Austin Independent School District not to allow any activity or action that would give the appearance of school support or endorsement of religion in general or of a specific religion, and to support, as far as is reasonable, the free, private exercise of individual religious beliefs by students and staff.

RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OVERVIEW – A COMPLEX ISSUE The issue of the proper role of religion in the public schools continues to be the subject of great controversy. School officials, parents and students -- as well as lawyers and judges -- wrestle with these questions every day.

However, clear standards and guidance are. How to Handle Religious Holidays in Public Schools. By: May students be absent for religious holidays?

Sensitive school policy on absences will take account of the religious needs and requirements of students. Students should be allowed a reasonable number of excused absences, without penalties, to observe religious holidays within .

School districts should set policies about religion in public schools
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