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9.46.P.1 School Ceremonies and Observances

Section 9.46 - Policy


Religion in Relation to Holiday
Observances in the Schools

General  Guidelines
District administrators and teachers must remain sensitive to the concerns of individuals as well as to the underlying issues in the delicate area of the relationship between public education and religion.  This regulation has been developed to address some of these concerns consistent with guidance available from the United States Supreme Court first amendment decisions, other legal interpretations as well as best practice.

The Supreme Court has developed a three (3)-point test for determining when governmental activity falls within the constitutional boundaries:
  • The activity must have a secular purpose.
  • The primary effect of the activity must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  • The activity must not foster an excessive governmental entanglement with religion.  

In addition, Dysart Unified School District No. 89 prescribes an additional two (2)-point test:
  • How does this activity serve the academic goals of the course or the educational mission of the school?
  • Will any student or parent be made to feel like an outsider by this activity?  Are there alternative activities/choices?

Curriculum  and  Classroom  Activities
The curriculum may include factual and objective teaching about religion and religious freedom focused on the role religion has played in history and cultural and national heritage.  However, materials or activities that either inhibit or promote religion cannot be included in curricular offering and any materials or supplemental resources used in such activities must be Board-approved.

Students may be taught the origins, histories, traditions and generally accepted meanings of religions and religious holidays, provided the information is factual and objective.

Students should not be asked to profess, disclose, or explain personal or family religious belief, practice or observance.  

Staff must remain neutral about religion.  Staff shall not proselytize or indoctrinate students in religion or nonreligion.

Religious  Symbols
Religious symbols may be used as a teaching aid or resource if displayed temporarily and objectively as part of instruction about cultural and religious heritage.

Musical  Programs
School groups presenting musical/instrumental programs may use religious music as long as the total effect of the program is not religious.  Religious music should not dominate any program.

Programs should not make a child feel excluded because of his/her religion, nor should he/she feel forcibly identified with a religion not his/her own.

A religious holiday should not be sponsored, celebrated or observed.  Religious holidays may be recognized and objectively studied as part of secular instruction about religion and religious traditions.

Secular activities relating to legal holidays and holidays with religious origins that have become secularized are permitted.  Christmas and several other holidays have religious origins.  However, many activities associated with these holidays are secular or have become secularized and are permitted.  Activities related to the religious aspects of holidays must comply with the guidelines set forth in this procedure.

Music, art and literature of various religions from many countries have become part of the social and cultural heritage associated with religious holidays.  Religious music, art and literature and symbols may be included in holiday activities so long as presented objectively as examples of the cultural and religious heritage of the holiday.  Musical pieces should be selected and performed as works of art, not as acts of veneration.

Excused  Absence  for  Religious  Observance
Absence from class to observe a religious holiday shall be recognized as an excused absence.  Whenever possible, examinations, assemblies, field trips, and other special events should be scheduled at times other than when students are absent due to observance of a religious holiday.

Objections  to  Curriculum  or  Activities
Any objections to curriculum or activities shall be processed under Governing Board Policy Section 11.12, Public Concerns/Complaints about Instructional Resources.