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Faith In the Classroom

09/20/2013

 

BACK TO SCHOOL:

FAITH IN THE CLASSROOM

 

Source: Koinonia House – 09.17.2013

back_to_school

It’s that time of year again, when moms can buy four boxes of crayons for a buck, and students around the country are dragging out of bed in time to catch the bus. If you are a proud parent, now is the perfect time to have a discussion with your children about their faith and some of the challenges they may face in the coming months.

The role of religion in public schools continues to be a hotly debated issue. Some public school teachers avoid the mere mention of religion in their classrooms because they are afraid of facing a student’s lawyers or losing their job. Other teachers would like to talk about religion, but don’t know what they are allowed to say and what would be considered “crossing the line.” Many teachers, students, and parents have questions concerning religion in public schools, and may wish to take a moment to explore some of the resources available.

A publication by the First Amendment Center called Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools can be downloaded for free (click on the link listed under ‘Related Links’, below). Finding Common Ground is a guidebook that explains teachers’ and students’ religious rights. It gives information concerning a wide variety of subjects such as equal access, judicial court rulings, and religious holidays. Below you will also find a link to the United States Department of Education Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools.

Freedom of Speech

The Supreme Court has ruled that students retain their freedom of speech and expression when at school. According to the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, a school may only silence students if they are actually disrupting school discipline. That is, a student’s freedom of expression does not give him or her the right to interrupt class. However, during free time, students are free to:

Read their Bibles
Talk to peers about religion and pray with their peers
Wear clothing with Christian symbols and messages
Pass out religious tracts

Equal Access

If a secondary public school receives any federal funding and if it allows any other non-curriculum clubs (like the chess club or the glee club) to form, then it must allow students to form Bible clubs or other religiously oriented organizations on campus with the same rights to the facilities as other clubs. Religious clubs are guaranteed the right to official recognition, which means the school must offer them access to the school newspaper, bulletin boards, and the public announcement system et al. Religious clubs, however, must be student-initiated and student-led. The students may invite outside speakers, but the club must be organized and led by the students themselves.

Educational Opportunities

Because religion is such an integral part of history and politics and the human experience in general, it is a relevant topic in the classroom setting. Teachers and students are free to discuss different religions and the impact religion has on society. While teachers must maintain a neutral position with the students, students are free to offer their own personal opinions on religious matters. [Teachers are free to discuss religious issues with their own peers outside of the classroom.]

Students may write papers on religious subjects, including the Bible. The Bible has had an enormous impact on history and literature and is an important book to know, even from a secular viewpoint. Literature from Shakespeare to Faulkner is full of allusions to the Bible, which can only be fully appreciated with a working knowledge of the Scriptures.

Teachers

Teachers also retain their First Amendment rights at school, but at the same time represent the school while in the classroom and at school events. Therefore, public school teachers are not permitted to “force their religion” on students. However, teachers do have a lot of freedom to teach about religion for educational purposes. They may teach on comparative religions, including Christianity. They may discuss the impact religion has had on history and science and literature. They may even discuss religion with students one-on-one, if the student initiates and maintains the conversation and is not compelled to agree with the teacher’s position.

As school starts up again, continue to pray for those faithful teachers who are striving to teach students according to righteousness in the face of a liberal education establishment. and for those students who are willing to stand up for their faith and be a light to their peers rather than just going along with the crowd.

Related Links:

Guidelines on Religious Activities in Public Schools Issued by the United States Department of Education
– ACLJ

Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools
– Freedom Forum

Train Up a Child: Home Schooling
– Koinonia House

How to Study the Bible – DVD
– K-House Store

Religion and Public Schools
Department of Education

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