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603.80 Religious Expression

It will be the policy, responsibility, and aim of the District to demonstrate respect for the religious beliefs and practices of all persons and to refrain from questioning the absence of religious belief.

Students, while engaged in school activities or during the instructional day, may demonstrate religious beliefs through prayer, attire, assignments, and/or speech as long as it is non-disruptive, subject to the rules that normally pertain to other student behavior, and does not impose religious beliefs on other students. Students may be dismissed to attend religious events outside of school consistent with the District’s attendance/truancy policies and procedures.

District employees must recognize that when acting in their professional capacity, they are representatives of the state and are prohibited from soliciting or encouraging religious or anti-religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students.

The school shall not be used for religious or anti-religious instruction. Instructors will ensure that their own views do not bias instruction. At no time should any religion or non-religion be promoted or shown preference.

Pertinent references to religion, even to doctrinal differences, whenever intrinsic to the lesson at hand, may be included in the teaching of board approved curriculum. Such teaching will be factual and objective and not devotional.

Religious celebrations and holidays of different religious groups may be noted and discussed.

The religious beliefs and practices, or absence thereof, of all students will be respected. Any student assignments will be judged by ordinary academic standards. When the discussion leads beyond the intent of the lesson, the students should be referred to their parents/guardians for further information and interpretation.

District facilities will not be used during school hours for religious activities, meetings, worship, celebrations, or observances. Facility use outside of the normal school day will be subject to the rules and regulations for other non-religious groups and pursuant to the terms of the District rental agreements arranged through Community Engagement.

R.R. for Policy #603.80: Permissible Activities in Regard to Religious Expression

The Superintendent/designee shall ensure that all instructional and other school sponsored activities meet the three-part test for constitutionality established by the United States Supreme Court:

  • The proposed activity must have a secular purpose,
  • The proposed activity’s principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and
  • The proposed activity must not foster an excessive governmental entanglement with religion.

The lists below are, of necessity, generalizations to guide Constitutional action.

1. Curriculum and Instruction. Teachers shall prepare and teach lessons that:

  1. Approach religion as academic, not devotional,
  2. Are guided by the same criteria for academic inquiry, objectivity, and educational effectiveness that are expected in other areas of the curriculum,
  3. Strive for student awareness of religions, not acceptance of particular religious beliefs,
  4. Allow for the study of religion, but do not include the practice religion in the classroom,
  5. Expose students to diversity of religious views, but do not impose any particular view,
  6. Educate students about a variety of religions, but do not promote or denigrate religion,
  7. Inform students about various beliefs, but do not ask students to conform to any particular belief
  8. Demonstrate the impact of economic, social, political, and cultural effects of religion throughout history,
  9. Are age appropriate.

2.  Music Program and Performances. A significant percentage of choral and instrumental music is based on religious themes or text. Any music curriculum designed to expose students to the full array of music culture, therefore, can be expected to reflect a significant number of religious songs. However, music instructors are expected to select particular pieces of secular or sacred music, in part for their unique qualities useful to teach a variety of music skills (i.e., sight reading, intonation, harmonization, expression).

3. Student Prayer. Individual or collective student prayers are permissible so long as the prayer does not disrupt or impede the educational mission of the district. Prayer led by or at the behest of a public school official, while serving in that capacity is in violation of the First Amendment.

4. Moment of Silence. A collective moment of silence, out of respect for a tragedy is permissible.

5. Secular Aspects of Traditionally Religious Holidays. The District shall not make assumptions about whether students celebrate particular holidays. The secular aspects of holidays may be part acknowledged at school to the extent that they do not otherwise violate District policies and/or procedures. For example, the following are permissible activities, (inasmuch as they do not violate the First Amendment):

  1. Hanging pictures of reindeer, bells, or other non-religious symbols.
  2. Sponsoring a “giving tree” on which students hang hats, mittens, scarves, and/or other items for donation to less fortunate persons.
  3. Sponsoring sleigh rides.
  4. Wearing holiday attire and religious symbols that do not interfere with the learning environment.
  5. Singing or broadcasting secular songs associated with holidays (e.g., “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”)
  6. Presenting holiday programs that serve an educational purpose for all students. These programs may include religious songs so long as they are selected for their musicality, are not limited to Christian- themed songs, and so long as the program includes a variety of selections.
  7. Allowing staff staff and/or students to wish each other a sincere “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Joyous Kwanzaa,” etc., whether within or without the walls of a public school building.

6. Religious Symbols. The use of religious symbols may be permitted as a teaching aid, but only when such symbols are used temporarily and objectively to give information about a heritage associated with a particular religion. Symbols which are secular may be displayed in a seasonal context. Students may choose to create artwork with religious symbols, but teachers shall not assign such creations. A religious symbol is:

  1.  Any object that portrays or recognizes the existence of a Supreme Being or deity, including, but not limited to: a cross, crucifix, Star of David, nativity scene, menorah, Ten Commandments, chalices, crescent, Buddha, and/or other iconography regularly viewed as part of a religious celebration or ceremony.
  2. Any object closely associated with religion and/or with the celebration of a religious holiday that it is looked upon as being of a religious nature, including, but not limited to: the dreidel, Christmas tree, Santa Claus, Lion of Judah, Easter eggs, and/or Easter bunnies.

7.  Class Activities. Activities are appropriate in so far as they are consistent with the District’s goal of maximizing instructional time. Such activities must not unduly interfere with regular academics. and shall give students a choice that respects their religious practices or lack thereof.

8. Performances. Some performance (i.e., drama or speech) pieces are based on religious times or text. Instructors are expected to select any particular piece in part for its unique qualities to touch a variety of skills and objectives, not for the religious aspects.

9. Pledge of Allegiance. Some performance (i.e., drama or speech) pieces are based on religious times or text. Instructors are expected to select any particular piece in part for its unique qualities to touch a variety of skills and objectives, not for the religious aspects.

10. Graduation or Baccalaureate. School officials may not mandate or organize prayer at graduation, nor organize religious baccalaureate ceremonies.

December 7, 2009

November 11, 2009
January 19, 2015
October 19, 2020

January 19, 2015
October 19, 2020