Policy ECF - Curriculum-Religious Neutrality
Issue Date: December 16, 2009
Constitutional Freedom in Public Schools
Provided it is designed to achieve secular educational objectives included within the context of a course or activity and concluded in accordance with applicable rules of this District, any school in the District, in accordance with State Office of Education policy, may undertake any instructional activity, performance, or display that includes:
- Examinations of, or presentations about, religion and political or religious thought or expression; or,
- The influence thereof on music, art, literature, law, politics, history; or,
- Any other element of the curriculum, including the comparative study of religions.
No aspect of cultural heritage, political theory, moral theory, or societal value shall be either included within or excluded from school curricula for the primary reason that it affirms, ignores, or denies religious belief, religious doctrine, a religious sect, or the existence of a spiritual realm or Supreme Being.
School officials and employees may not use their positions to endorse, promote, or disparage a particular religious, denominational, sectarian, agnostic, or atheistic belief or viewpoint. District schools may not sponsor prayer or religious devotionals.
If a parent with legal custody or other legal guardian of a student or if a secondary student, determines that the student’s participation in a portion of the curriculum or in an activity would:
- Require the student to affirm or deny a religious belief or right of conscience; or
- Engage or refrain from engaging in a practice forbidden or required in the exercise of a religious right or right of conscience.
The parent, guardian or student may request either:
- A waiver of the requirement to participate; or
- A reasonable alternative that requires reasonable equivalent performance by the student of the secular objectives of the curriculum or activity in question.
If a student makes a request under the above paragraph for a waiver or a reasonable alternative, the school administration shall promptly notify the student’s parent or guardian that such a request has been made, including the substantive nature of the portion of the curriculum or activity for which the student requests waiver or alternative.
The Principal, in consultation with the student’s teacher, and after consulting with the student and the student’s parents, shall notify the student and the student’s parent or legal guardian of the Principal’s decision. The school may elect one of the following options:
- To waive the participation requirements;
- To provide a reasonable alternative to the requirement; or
- To notify the requesting party that the participation is required.
If the school determines that participation is required, the school shall ensure that any limitation on student expression, practice, or conduct shall be by the least restrictive means necessary to satisfy the school’s interest in fulfilling curriculum objectives or that the limitation satisfies another specifically identified compelling governmental interest.
Expressions of Belief
Expression of personal beliefs by a student participating in school-directed curricula or activities may not be prohibited or penalized unless the expression unreasonably interferes with order of discipline, threatens the well-being of persons or property, or violates concepts of civility or propriety appropriate to the school setting.
Expressions of Belief During Discretionary Time
For the purposes of this section, “discretionary time” is defined as non-instructional time during which a student is free to pursue personal interests.
Free expression of voluntary religious practice or freedom of speech by students during discretionary time shall not be denied unless the conduct:
- Unreasonably interferes with the ability of school officials to maintain order and discipline;
- Unreasonably endangers persons or property; or,
- Violates concepts of civility or propriety appropriate to the school setting.
Any limitation under this section on student expression, practice, or conduct shall be by the least restrictive means necessary to satisfy the school’s interests in fulfilling curriculum objectives or to satisfy another specifically identified compelling government interest.