The Linn-Mar Community School District believes there is value in diversity and appreciates the constitutional context in which schools must function regarding religious liberty and the First Amendment.
The following guidelines have been developed to further define Policy 603.9 Religion in Schools:
Teaching about Religion: Religious holidays offer opportunities to teach about religions. The observance or celebration of a religious holiday in school raises sensitive issues for people who observe the holiday and for those who do not.
District personnel and students are permitted to observe their religious holidays in the schools so long as the observance is not disruptive. By way of example, observing a religious fast or wearing a religious article as part of a holiday observance or celebration is not likely to be disruptive. Other forms of observance that could be disruptive may not be permitted at school or special arrangements for such observance may have to be made.
District personnel may not make the celebration of, as opposed to the study of, a religious holiday part of any curricular or co/extra-curricular activity. District personnel may not coerce students to participate in the celebration or observance of any religious celebration.
Religious Expression: The right of students to engage in religious activity and discussion shall be respected. For example, individual students are free to pray, read their scriptures, discuss their faith, and invite others to join their particular religious group as long as such behaviors are not disruptive or coercive. Students shall have the right to express their religious views when those views are relevant to the subject under consideration or meet the requirements of the assignment.
Students may wear clothing with religious significance when the wearing of the clothing during the school day is part of their religious practice. Students may wear religious jewelry and may display religious messages on clothing to the same extent that other messages are permitted.
Students may distribute religious literature on school property following the guidelines of policies 1001.4 and 1001.4-R for distribution of non-curricular materials. Distribution upon the proper approvals of religious, non-curricular literature is to be done at a reasonable time, place, and manner that is not disruptive to the orderly and efficient operation of the school. The distribution of literature that is obscene, defamatory, or disruptive shall be prohibited.
Students may form religious clubs which shall have access to school facilities and media on the same basis as other non-curriculum-related student clubs. Participation in such clubs must be voluntary and student-initiated. The club may not be sponsored by the school or district personnel. Non-school persons shall not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend meetings of such clubs. District personnel may be present at religious club meetings in a supervisory capacity, but they shall not participate in club activities. Any club activity that is illegal or that would cause substantial disruption of the school shall be prohibited.
When acting on behalf of Linn-Mar Schools, employees shall be neutral among religions and between religion and non-religion. District personnel shall not organize, mandate, or participate in student religious activities including prayer. District personnel shall be allowed to wear personal, religious jewelry.
School Activities and Programs: The historical and contemporary significance of religious holidays may be included in the education program provided that the instruction is presented in an unbiased and objective manner. The selection of holidays to be studied will take into account major celebrations of several world religions, not just those of a single religion. Holiday-related activities will be educationally sound and sensitive to religious differences and will be selected carefully to avoid the excessive or unproductive use of school time. Teachers will be especially careful in planning activities that are to take place immediately preceding or on a religious holiday.
Music, art, literature, and drama having religious themes (including traditional carols, seasonal songs, and classical music) will be permitted if presented in an objective manner without sectarian indoctrination. The emphasis on religious themes is only as extensive as necessary for a balanced and comprehensive study or presentation. Religious content included in student performances is selected on the basis of its independent educational merit and will seek to give exposure to a variety of religious customs, beliefs, and forms of expression. Holiday programs, parties, or performances will not become religious celebrations or be used as a forum for religious worship such as the devotional reading of sacred writings or the recitations of prayers.
The use of religious symbols (e.g. a cross, menorah, crescent, Star of David, lotus blossom, nativity scene, or other symbols that are part of a religious ceremony) are 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. The Christmas tree, Santa Claus, Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, and Halloween decorations are secular, seasonal symbols and as such can be displayed in a seasonal context.
Expressions of belief or non-belief initiated by individual students are permitted in composition, art forms, music, speech, and debate. However, teachers may not require projects or activities which indoctrinate or force students to contradict their personal religious beliefs or non-beliefs.
Accommodations: Curricular or co/extra-curricular assignments or activities that make students feel excluded or identified with a religion not their own shall be avoided whenever possible.
The Linn-Mar Community School District shall accommodate requests from parents or students to be excused for religious reasons from curricular or co/extra-curricular activities without penalty. When students are excused for religious reasons from curricular activities, teachers shall make available a comparable educational experience.
Reviewed: 7/11; 9/12; 9/13; 2/15; 4/18
Related Policy (Code #): 502.11; 603.9; 603.9-R; 603.10; 1001.14
Legal Reference (Code of Iowa): §§ 279.8; 280.6