A student's right to religious expression in the public school
include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. To speak and distribute religious materials.
2. To espouse religious ideas.
3. To pray and have religious meetings.
4. To respond to assignments with religious content.
And while students have such broad latitude and religious freedoms of
expression, their freedoms have certain limitations. Attorney Louis
Lozano explained that students do not have a right to use obscenities and
defamation of character nor are they allowed to commit unlawful acts or
violate school rules.
He explained that public schools and their staff are not allowed to
appear to endorse one religious view or nonreligious view over another.
"Student religious expression must be free from school involvement."
Parents have a right, responsibility and opportunity to influence
their child's religion without interference by school staff. Teachers are
not allowed to convince your child of views contrary to your beliefs.
Staff must always remain neutral with respect to religion and religious
expression whenever they are in an official capacity before, during and
after school. The attorney explained that when teachers and school
employees are acting in an official capacity, they cannot:
* Participate in flag pole meetings.
* Initiate or participate in prayers with students.
* Initiate or participate in moments of silence except for very
* Participate in student religious meetings. (Religious club advisors
are for the purpose of supervising students and not for advising or
praying with them.)
* Participate in graduation prayers.
* Display religious items, if the display becomes promotion of
Lozano explained that the law permits students to pray so long as the
prayer is not endorsed by school staff. Prayers during graduation would
appear to include school control over content, therefore, such prayers
are not allowed. On the other hand, "Religious Baccalaureate services and
prayers are permitted only if privately sponsored, not school sponsored."
Lozano further explained that "just as any member of the public,
parents may use school facilities for religious purposes," and that the
school "must treat school use for religious reasons just as it would any
other request for school facilities." And he concluded that students in
religious clubs "may use school facilities (and supplies) to the same
extent as nonreligious clubs."
Glendale has a policy on religious freedom and expression that was
developed recently after extensive study by a staff and community
committee and that was reviewed by district attorneys. Parents interested
in details of the district's policy on religion are invited to contact
the school principal or the office of the superintendent at 241-3111.
CHUCK SAMBAR is a member of the Glendale Board of Education. He can be
reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.