Williamsville Central School District

Font Size

Instructional Materials

Adoption Date: 7/7/2009
8000 - Instruction

8360 RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN THE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM

The Board of Education acknowledges the importance of religion to the understanding of society and the richness of the human experience. In approaching the teaching about religion in the school, the District will be guided by three concepts when making decisions about the appropriateness of activities for inclusion in the school program: the activity should have a secular purpose; the activity should neither advance nor inhibit religion; and the activity must not foster an excessive entanglement of "government" with religion.

Nurturing the development of knowledge and respect for the rights of all cultural and religious groups is a continuing goal of the Williamsville Central School District. Students, faculty and administration are reminded of the pluralism of religious beliefs and are urged to be conscious of and respect the sensitivity of others.

Opportunities to learn about cultural and religious traditions should be provided within the framework of the curriculum. Information about religious and cultural holidays and traditions focusing on how and when they are celebrated, their origins and histories should be part of this instruction. This educational opportunity should be handled with great care, sensitivity and respect for the feelings and beliefs of individuals.

An environment should be created and encouraged where students of various ethnic backgrounds feel comfortable in sharing comments about their religious and cultural traditions. No student should be singled out to share or participate in such discussions solely on the basis of that student's identification with the cultural/religious heritage being addressed. A student's preference not to share or participate in such discussions should be honored and respected without penalty.

School Activities Related to Religious Holidays or Themes

School activities related to the teaching about religious holidays or themes must be consistent with, representative of, and congruent with the District's curriculum.

In planning school activities related to the teaching about religious holidays or themes, special effort must be made to ensure that the activity is not devotional and that students of all faiths can join without feeling they are betraying their own beliefs.

In planning school activities related to the teaching about religious holidays or themes, age appropriate activities are encouraged within the framework of the curriculum. Teaching about religious and cultural holidays may include such special activities as parties and special foods, if they reinforce educational goals.

Symbols in the Schools

The purpose of using religious symbols should be to teach about religious concepts and traditions, and to convey historical or cultural content, not to promote or celebrate religious concepts, events or holidays.

  • Classroom use on a temporary basis and/or display of religious symbols is permitted as a teaching resource or aid only within the framework of the curriculum. Such use and/or display should provide an environment whereby students of all faiths can participate without betraying their own beliefs.
  • Even when it may be compatible with the instructional setting, a display outside the classroom whose themes focus on the religious holiday(s), tradition(s), or symbol(s) of any religion is not appropriate.
  • Individual student-initiated expressions in response to any given project may take the form of religious writing, musical composition or artwork. These creations will be guided by the teacher and may be displayed in the school in the same manner as other student created expressions. They are to be evaluated in the same manner as any other student product.
  • Individual expression of religious belief by means of wearing of religious symbols on the person or on clothing is a protected expression of faith.
Music in the Schools

The purpose of using religious music should be to teach musical concepts, to convey historical and cultural content, or to create aesthetic experiences in a setting which emphasizes artistic expression and educational value, not celebration of faith.

  • Religious music should be appropriate for performance any time during the school year.
  • Musical programs prepared for or presented by student groups as an outcome of the instructional program should not be religious or religious holiday oriented. However seasonable programs may include religious music. On those occasions when religious music is included in a seasonable program the music should not dominate the program and should be balanced and inclusive.
  • Parents/guardians and students should be informed that requests for the student to not participate in singing or playing religious music will be respected. Such requests should be made by the parents/guardians as early as possible in the school year so that students may fulfill course requirements in another way without penalty.
District Calendar

The days on which members of a religious group may be absent to observe a religious holiday (legal absence) will be noted on the school planning calendar and the District calendar distributed to parents. Out of respect for a student's observance of these holidays, teachers will be sensitive to the needs of the student by allowing them to make up all new work, homework, and tests without penalty. Parents/guardians are encouraged to notify the school prior to the absence in order to assist the staff in instructional planning and in meeting the needs of the student.

  • To the extent possible, school events will not be scheduled on religious holidays, including events of observance.
  • In scheduling graduations the school administration will be sensitive to the religious observations and restrictions of all students.
Curriculum Areas in Conflict with Religious Beliefs

Students shall be given the option to be excused from participating in those parts of an activity, program, or area of instruction involving a religious theme which conflicts with their own religious beliefs or that of their parents/guardians in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Alternatives may be provided that are of comparable instructional value.

Implementation

Administrative regulations will be developed to implement the terms of this policy. Further, the District shall publicize and disseminate this policy and accompanying regulations in order to ensure community, faculty, student, and parental/guardian awareness.

United States Constitution, First Amendment

Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Section 9524
Equal Access Act, 20 United States Code (USC) Sections 4071-4074
Education Law Sections 1609(9), 1609(10), 1709(1), 1709(3), 3204(5) and 3210
8 New York Code of Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) Sections 16.2 and 109.2

Policy References:
Refer also to Policies

  • #7460 -- Constitutionally Protected Prayer in the Public Schools
  • #8330 -- Objection to Instructional Materials
Policy Cross References:

  •  » 7460 - CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED PRAYER IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
  •  » 8330 - OBJECTION TO INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
« BACK | BACK TO POLICY SERIES