Eighth-graders at Stella Schola Middle School received a rare visit with renowned fantasy-fiction author Terry Brooks on January 22.
Teaching about Religion
Instruction shall be related to a learning objective and consistent with the district's educational program. It shall be factual and objective, neutral and non-devotional. In presenting materials which include religious references, staff members shall be sensitive to the feelings and beliefs of all students.
Instruction shall not attack religion or promote religion, nor attack or promote the absence of religion. A student or staff member shall not be required to declare a religious preference or make a statement of belief or non-belief. Individual students may voluntarily express their beliefs as part of an instructional assignment.
The three-part test of neutrality used by the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of instructional practices impinging on religion shall serve as a guide in planning instruction. Instructional activities must have a secular purpose; the principal or primary effect of activities must be one that neither advances or inhibits religion; and the activity must not impose excessive entanglement with religion on the part of the school.
Musical, Artistic, Dramatic Presentations
Musical, artistic, and dramatic presentations may include selections that are religious in nature. These selections must be related to the objectives of the instructional program and used in conjunction with non-religious works. A context for the selection must be provided which includes information such as historical background or literary or artistic significance. The presentation should serve a secular educational purpose and not be performed or offered as a devotional message or indoctrination. A winter concert program, for example, could include sacred musical selections if balanced with other selections on a non-religious theme.
Displays in the classroom which include religious materials or symbols must be related to a specific learning objective, and a context and purpose for the materials used in the display must be established. Classroom displays must be free of any suggestion of promotion or advocacy of a particular doctrine, creed, or belief.
Exemption From Instruction
Students may be exempted from instructional activities which violate their religious beliefs or non-beliefs, and may not be penalized in grading or subjected to pressure for failure to participate. Parents or guardians have the authority to decide when their children should be exempted from participation. An alternate activity shall be provided for a reasonable period of time at the local school for those students who choose not to participate.
Students who are excused from class shall participate in some form of supervised activity during that time. Those activities shall not necessarily be related to instruction, but could include such activities as supervised study in the library, peer tutoring, research, or assisting in the library, and home study with parents. Students shall be provided an opportunity to make up work missed in class.
Religious services may not be held in school facilities during instructional time. School assemblies may not include presentations which inhibit, advance, promote, or disparage religion or the religious beliefs or non-beliefs of members of the school community.
Commencement, Baccalaureate Exercises
Commencement exercises which are school-sponsored shall be free from sectarian influence. A non-denominational invocation and/or benediction may be honored in the spirit of accommodation.
Baccalaureate exercises may be organized and implemented by interested parents, students, and community members. Participation by school staff members and students in such exercises shall be voluntary, and no school or district funds, or school instructional time may be used to plan or conduct the services.
The recognition of religious holidays in public schools for objective instructional purposes is permissible and appropriate. Holiday activities in schools during regular school hours and at school-sponsored events shall not be, or have the effect of being, a religious celebration.
Parents may choose to exempt their children from any school-sponsored activity or program which may offend their religious beliefs.
Gift exchanges organized as a school-sponsored activity are prohibited.
Exercise and Protection of First Amendment Freedoms
Students may practice their religion i.e. wear religious symbols if they do so in a manner which does not materially or substantially disrupt the educational process.
The district shall not conduct or sponsor any form of devotional activity, including oral or silent prayer.
Release Time for Religious Instruction
Students may be released from school for moral and religious instruction and observances upon the request of their parents or guardians. Students shall be given reasonable opportunity to make up missed work and may not be pressured to choose between school attendance and religious instruction or observances. Students shall be counted present if they attend at least 60 minutes of each morning or afternoon session of the school day.
Students, parents, and community members who believe their rights under these policies have not been protected may utilize two grievance procedures which are part of existing board policy. Policies KLD and KLB explain the procedures available for patrons of the district while policy JFH describes the student grievance procedure.