VII-27: Constitutional Freedoms in Public Schools

North Sanpete School District
Statement of..........

Board Policy With Guidelines

Policy Number:  VII-27
Effective Date:  02/09/1999
Revised Date:
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Subject:  Constitutional Freedoms in Public Schools              

PHILOSOPHY
The United States of America is a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic society.  The public school has been the great “melting pot,” of this country for many years, permitting students from a great variety of backgrounds to come together and learn.  Accordingly, the rights of all students must be respected in the areas of curriculum, instruction, counseling.  It is for these reasons that the North Sanpete School District adopts this policy.

CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS
Any school in the district, in accordance with the laws of the State of Utah and policy of the State Office of Education, may undertake any instructional activity, performance or display which includes examination of or presentations about religion, 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, provided it is designed to achieve secular educational objectives included within the context of a course or activity and conducted in accordance with applicable rules of the district.

RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY
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.  (Utah Code 53A-13-101.1)

PARTICIPATION WAIVERS
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:

  1. A waiver of the requirement to participate or
  2. 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 principal 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 a waiver or alternative.

The school 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:

  1. To waive the participation requirement.
  2. To provide a reasonable alternative to the requirement.
  3. 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 or discipline, threatens the well being of persons or property, or violates concepts of stability or propriety appropriate to the school setting.

Expressions of Belief During Discretionary Time
Free expression of voluntary religious practice or freedom of speech by students during discretionary time (non-instructional time during which a student is free to pursue personal interest), 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 stability 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 governmental interest. (Utah Code 53A-13-101.3)

SUPERVISION AND TRAINING
Pursuant to Administrative Rule 277-105-9 of the Utah State Board of Education, “Mandatory Responsibilities of School Districts,” the North Sanpete School District hereby adopts the following to ensure compliance with Section 53A-13-101.1 et.seq. Of the Utah Code Annotated:

  1. The board of education of the North Sanpete School District and its employees shall cooperate and share responsibilities in implementing this policy.
  2. The training to implement this policy will take place during the annual summer orientation for principals and during the first faculty meeting of the year at the various schools for the teachers in the district. This training shall include the following:
    1. How a person who wishes a waiver is to make that request.
    2. How the school official who receives the request for a waiver is to proceed.
    3. How notice is to be given to the parent of a minor secondary student who makes a request pursuant to an exercise of freedom of conscience or exercise of freedom of religion.
    4. How appeals make be taken from a decision to require participation in any curriculum or activity after a request to either waive participation or allow substitution of another activity has been made by a parent, legal guardian or secondary student, including suspension of participating requirements until a ruling on the appeal is issued.
    5. Establishment of procedures whereby students are not compelled to participate in a curriculum or activity after a request to waive participation or allow substitution of another activity has been submitted unless it is determined that requiring the participation of that particular student is the least restrictive means necessary to achieve a specifically identified educational objective in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;
    6. Establishment of procedures whereby any portion of any curriculum or activity that is repeatedly alleged to interfere with the rights of conscience or exercise of religious freedom of student, parents, or legal guardians shall be evaluated to determine whether the educational objectives could be achieved by less intrusive means. (Utah Code 53A-13-101 et, seq, Administrative Rule 277-105-9 of Utah State Board of Education).

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