In accordance with the mandate of the Constitution of the Unites States prohibiting the establishment of religion, it is the policy of this Board of Education that Plainfield School District No. 202 will, at all times and in all ways, be neutral in matters of religion.
This requirement of neutrality need not preclude nor hinder the Plainfield Schools in fulfilling its responsibility to educate students to be tolerant and respectful of religious diversity. The District also recognizes that one of its educational responsibilities is to advance the students' knowledge and appreciation of the role that religion has played in the social, cultural, and historical development of civilization. Moreover, the inclusion of instruction about religion is an integral part of the content of literature and social studies.
Therefore, the District will approach religion from an objective, curriculum-related perspective, encouraging all students and staff members to be aware of the diversity of belief and respectful of each other's religious and/or non-religious views. References to religion shall be designed to neither advance nor to criticize the basic teachings of any faith or sect. In that spirit of respect, students and staff members shall be excused from participating in activities that are contrary to their religious beliefs unless there are clear issues of compelling public interest that would prevent it.
School Ceremonies and Observances (Religious Holiday Observances)
Statement of Intent
It is the intent of the School District to permit school activities related to religious holidays that include the five major root religions of the world. These are the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish religions. It is also the intent to create, in a neutral manner, an awareness about religions in our pluralistic society. Further, it is the intent of the School District not to discriminate against any student or group but to foster an awareness and respect for the differences that exist as a part of the culture in which we live.
The public school is a meeting place for children of all backgrounds and beliefs. Schools have an invaluable opportunity and a responsibility to bring about understanding and respect among those in their charge. The role of the school is to educate, not to indoctrinate students, neither to advocate particular viewpoints, nor to celebrate particular religious events.
Students must be given the opportunity to make up work missed due either to celebrating or observing their major religious holy days.
Religious Symbols and Religious Holiday Symbols
Religious symbols are sacred to particular faiths and belong primarily in a place of worship or a home. Historically, religious symbols have been an integral part of society and cultures, and use in the school must be for temporary periods of time and only when appropriate for education purposes. (Religious symbols include, for example, the Star of David, Creche, Cross and Buddha.)
Religious holiday symbols must be used for education purposes. Their meaning should be explained to students. Religious holiday symbols are cultural symbols that may have no religious significance themselves but have been allowed to become associated with a particular religious belief in connection with holiday celebrations. (Holiday symbols include, for example, Santa Claus, Menoriah, Shofar, Easter eggs, Christmas trees.)
Art, Literature, and Music as Related to Religious Holiday Symbols
Religious beliefs and subjects have been the inspiration for much of the world’s great art, literature, and music. The selection of art, literature, and music for student activities must be based on its educational merit and on its ability to develop understanding, growth, and appreciation in young people. As with religious symbols, religious themes in art, literature, and music must be explained to students in their appropriate context. Art, writing, literature, and music projects about religious holidays must provide a variety of alternatives so that students have a choice of projects other than those related to religious holidays. Art, writing, literature, and music projects will be based on educational objectives.
A particular performance or program may consist of studying a lengthy piece of sacred music; however, the study and/or performance of such music will not be construed in and of itself as a religious holiday observance. The intent of the music program must be educational and should foster aesthetic appreciation.
LEGAL REF.: School District of Abington Twp v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
Allegheny County v. ACLU Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 109 S.Ct. 3086, 106 L.Ed.2d 472 (1989).
CROSS REF.: 6:40 (Curriculum Development), 6:255 (Assemblies and Ceremonies)
ADOPTED: November 22, 2004