According to the Christian Law Association, attacks on religious liberties within the public school setting are anything but new. In fact, the first assault it took came in 1962 after the Supreme Court deemed sponsored prayer in public school to be unconstitutional.
Religious liberty took another blow when the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional for public schools to begin their day with Bible reading in 1963. Since this time, the hits have just kept coming.
Last month, an Indiana schoolteacher once again brought the story of religious liberty and the classroom to the forefront. According to the IndyStar, a first-grade teacher employed by McCordsville Elementary sent a note home with her students, asking parents to have open discussions with their kids on the “appropriate time and place” to talk about their beliefs. The teacher stated that her classroom was not the appropriate place, nor was class time the proper time. The as of yet unidentified teacher said the following in the note:
“With McCordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs and I do not want to upset a child/parent because of the words being used.”
While this teacher might have had good intentions, although that is questionable, her decision to ban talk of God from her classroom seems to have backfired. Superintendent of Mt. Vernon Schools Shane Robbins says that his office was contacted after the note was sent home by a handful of parents who felt the note was an effort to “quiet their children.”
According to Robbins, though, that is not something the district does. The policy of Mt. Vernon obeys the state law that says no religious expression can be advanced or inhibited.
Robbins blamed the action of the teacher as a mistake by an inexperienced teacher in only her second year. In other words, she didn’t know the district or board policies. The teacher is currently still in the classroom with all the same students. However, Robbins believes this is a “learning process for the young teacher.” He believes the teacher jumped the gun when it came to the note.
After being questioned, the teacher admitted that the motivation behind her note was to enlist the help of her students’ parents in toning down some of the heated religious discussions that were taking place in her classroom, during class time. She felt they were disrupting the flow of the day and needed to come to an end.
She apparently had already tried to talk to the students themselves and didn’t get very far, thus prompting her to reach out to the parents. Mr. Robbins feels the teacher should have consulted with her own principal or other school officials before making such a move. Therefore, the situation is being chalked up to a learning experience all around.
What Religious Rights Do Students Have in a Classroom Setting?
This incident has sparked the debate once again of a students’ religious liberties within the classroom when it comes to talking about God, sharing their faith, reading their Bible or praying. Legally, students have a great deal of freedom. They can pray, they can witness, and they can express their beliefs.
Unfortunately, the rights of school officials and teachers are much more confined. That is why most all religious events, clubs and the like have to be student led. Thankfully, if students want to share their faith, even in a public setting, they have the right to do so, thanks to the constitution of the United States of America. That is why it is so important for students to know their rights, such as being constitutionally able to share their faith.
What Rights do Teachers and Administrators Have in a Public School Setting?
As mentioned above, teachers and administrators have more restrictions when it comes to witnessing to kids or sharing their faith. As of right now, according to the Christian Law Association, they cannot:
- Witness to students while on school grounds.
- Pray during extracurricular events or in the classroom.
- Conduct devotional exercises.
- Tell Bible stories (in a devotional method) or read the Bible in the classroom.
Teachers can get around many of these rules by doing these things off campus, asking students to lead prayers or teaching the Bible as part of their academic curriculum in a neutral way. This can include studies like the history of religion, comparative religions, a look at the role religion played in history and the like. Teachers can also exude examples of positive values to kids.
Religious liberties have been defended over the years by various organizations. Thankfully, today, students are able to freely express their religious beliefs while at school, even in a public school setting. Therefore, it is not okay for a teacher to tell a child they cannot talk about God as that goes against a student’s religious liberty.
~ Christian Patriot Daily