The administrative guidelines presented below are designed to help school administrators and teachers interpret and apply the district’s policy regarding religion in the schools. That policy upholds the principle of school district neutrality toward religion. It recognizes that tradition balances separation between church and state with government accommodation of religion. The guidelines are presented in 10 parts, each pertaining to a different aspect of school and religion.
Part 1: Curriculum
- The teaching of religion to instill belief is a matter for parents and religious institutions, but teaching about religion is a legitimate responsibility of the schools. Schools may sponsor the study of religion, but not the practice of religion. Academic instruction about religion should help students better understand the religious heritage of their own and other cultures.
- Religions should be portrayed accurately in the curriculum, such as in the study of art, government, history, literature and music. There should be balanced treatment of the major world religions. The impact of religion on civilization should be included in the curriculum for the subjects of fine arts, language arts and social studies. Instruction about religion must have a secular purpose. Its primary effect should neither advance nor inhibit religion, and it should avoid excessive entanglement between the school and any religious group. As part of the curriculum, students may read sacred writings for their literary and historical qualities, but not for devotional purposes.
- The fine arts curriculum may include study of music and visual art containing religious themes. Fine arts curricular content should be selected for its educational and aesthetic significance. Content selection should be sensitive to the beliefs of religious groups. It should not desecrate or profane what is sacred to a religious group.
- Students should be taught to develop a commitment to the democratic value of religious liberty as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. When controversy pertaining to religious liberty is studied, it should be presented impartially with balanced treatment of conflicting viewpoints.
- Students may recite from national documents or sing national songs containing references to God in school when the primary purpose is secular.
- Teaching of theories of the origin of humans to promote a religious doctrine is not permitted.
- Subject matter content may not be included or excluded from the curriculum primarily to accommodate the religious or non-religious views of a particular group. Students may be excused from studies, assignments or activities that are contrary to their religious beliefs, unless such excuse would defeat an overriding educational goal.
Part 2: Performances and Displays (Cf. EBB-R)
- Schools and offices may not allow displays and performances for the purpose of promoting religious beliefs. Displays and performances containing religious symbols, artifacts, icons, documents or music are permitted only in the context of the curriculum. Displays of this type should be temporary. Over time, these performances and displays should reflect religious diversity and show no preference for any religion.
- Displays of secular symbols in observance of legal holidays are permitted in school.
Part 3: Holidays (Cf. GCA, EDAA)
- Religious holidays may not be celebrated in school, and religious celebrations outside of school may not be sponsored or supported by the school.
- Secular observance of legal holidays and holidays with religious origins that have become secular is permitted.
- Religious holidays, including the beliefs and practices associated with them, may be objectively studied in the curriculum. Such study should reflect a diversity of holidays representative of major world religious and show no preference for any religion. The religious significance of holidays and information presented about them should be accurate.
- Any school-sponsored field trip during the school day for the purpose of attending a holiday celebration must be an extension of, or directly related to, the adopted curriculum.
Part 4: Ceremonies (Cf. EDAA, GCA)
- No religious ceremonies may be conducted in school during school hours.
- Religious ceremonies after school hours or off school premises may not be sponsored or promoted by the school. School musical groups may not participate under the auspices of the school in religious services.
- School-sponsored ceremonies including commencement, awards programs, banquets, sporting events and inductions may not include any religious devotional activities.
Part 5: Worship/Prayer
School-sponsored devotional activities including prayers, benedictions, invocations, Bible reading, worship services and periods of silence are not permitted.
Part 6: Privacy
- Individuals should not be induced to disclose their personal religious preferences or beliefs or those of their family members. No one should be compelled to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.
- Gathering of anonymous data, voluntarily provided, about religious preferences or beliefs is permitted for educational purposes.
Part 7: Use of School Facilities
- School-operated communications media may not be used to promote or advertise religious activities or events.
- A school building may be used for religious activities by members of the community in accordance with school district policy and guidelines relating to use of buildings and property. Such activities must take place before the start of school or after dismissal in order to separate them from school-sponsored activities.
Part 8: Scheduling
- School scheduling should reasonably accommodate religious observances and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the community. Tests, field trips, open house programs, parent meetings, board meetings and other special events should be scheduled to minimize conflict with recognized religious holidays and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
- Students should be excused for absences resulting from these special observances as approved by their parents. The total number of these absences should not disrupt their schooling. Students are responsible for completing school assignments missed during such absences within a reasonable time following their return to school.
Part 9: Proselytizing
- Oral, written or symbolic expressions of personal religious beliefs by individuals are permitted in school provided they do not disrupt or interfere with school. Attempts by individuals or groups to impose religious beliefs on others, however, are not permitted in school. Distribution of sectarian literature, unless directly related to the curriculum, is not allowed.
- Staff must remain neutral about religion while acting as an agent of or on behalf of the district. They may not indoctrinate students with any religious creed, and they may impose neither religion nor irreligion.
- Expressions of religious bigotry which disparage or degrade any religion are not permitted in school.
Part 10: Appeal Procedure
The above guidelines will be implemented in the district. Decisions regarding them will be made and resolved at the building level. However, students and parents may appeal a building-level decision to the superintendent.