609: Religion in the Schools

Policy reflects Minnesota statute and aligns with other District 270 policies.

I. PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to identify the status of religion as it pertains to the programs of the School District.

II. GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY

A. The School District shall neither promote nor disparage any religious belief or nonbelief. Instead, the School District encourages all students and employees to have appreciation for and tolerance of each other’s views.

B. The School District also recognizes that religion has had and continues to have a significant role in the social, cultural, political, and historical development of civilization.

C. The School District recognizes that one of its educational objectives is to increase its students’ knowledge and appreciation of music, art, drama, and literature which may have had a religious basis or origin as well as a secular importance.

D. The School District supports the inclusion of religious music, art, drama, and literature in the curriculum and in school activities provided it is intrinsic to the learning experience and is presented in an objective manner without sectarian indoctrination.

E. The historical and contemporary values and the origin of various religions, holidays, customs, and beliefs may be explained in an unbiased and nonsectarian manner.

III. RESPONSIBILITY

A. It shall be the responsibility of the superintendent to ensure that the study of religious materials, customs, beliefs, and holidays in the School District is in keeping with the following guidelines:

1. The proposed activity must have a secular purpose.

2. The primary objective of the activity must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.

3. The activity must not foster excessive governmental relationships with religion.

4. Notwithstanding the foregoing guidelines, reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate any student who wishes to be excused from attendance at school for the purpose of religious instruction or observance of religious holidays.

B. The superintendent is granted authority to develop and present for School Board review and approval directives and guidelines for the purpose of providing further guidance relative to the teaching of materials related to religion. Approved directives and guidelines shall be attached as an addendum to this policy.

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Adopted: July 28,1977
Revised: September 7, 1995, September 16, 2010, October 1, 2015, September 29, 2020.


DISTRICT CODE: 609 - REGULATIONS

1. Teaching About Religions

Teaching about religion must be clearly distinguished from teaching religion, which amounts to religious indoctrination and practice and is clearly prohibited in public schools. Religion may be presented as part of a secular educational program, with the goal of teaching students about the role of religion in the historical, cultural, economic, and social development of the United States and other nations. This approach seeks to promote understanding, tolerance, and respect for religious diversity. The same approach is applied to the study of the sacred literature of religions. They are studied as significant documents which present the important literary expression of a given religious tradition. They are also studied for the effects they have on the religious communities and cultures in which they have been or are operative.

2. Musical Programs/Concerts

Musical programs prepared or presented under school auspices should be planned with sensitivity to the views of all members of the community. Such programs should not be religious or religious-holiday oriented. Schools may include selections of religious music, both choral and instrumental, provided they are presented in a broad concert or program setting that is not religiously oriented, such as a program that includes religious and nonreligious holiday music from various cultures and religions. Religious selections should not constitute a majority of the concert. For these purposes, religious selections, especially choral selections, are defined as having religious or religion-oriented texts, but which are used for their musical value and not because of the meaning or inference of the words used in the selections.

3. Religious Symbols

A religious symbol is any object that portrays or recognizes the existence of a supreme being or deity, or any object that is so closely associated with religion or religions or with the celebration of a religious holiday that it is looked upon by a segment of the population as being of a religious nature. Religious symbols are sacred to particular faiths. Religious symbols may be used as teaching aids in the academic study about religions. Their display in the classroom should be for temporary periods only, when appropriate for educational purposes. Religious symbols should not be displayed in offices, reception areas, or other public spaces where the display is not linked to the academic study about religions.

4. Advertising Religious Activities

Schools shall not permit the advertising of religious activities or the distribution of religious literature except:

(a) as provided in Hopkins School District Policy 505, Distribution of Noncurricular Materials By Students;

(b) as provided in Hopkins School District Policy 801, Equal Access to Facilities by Secondary Students; and

(c) when directly related to the academic study about religions.

5. Honoring absence Due to Religious Holidays

Hopkins Public Schools policy requires faculty and staff to accommodate students who are absent due to religious observance and to provide them with a reasonable opportunity to make up an examination, study, or work requirements missed due to their religious observance.

Schools must ensure that students who are absent from school for religious holiday observances are not unduly burdened or otherwise penalized.

To that end, the following expectations are designed to promote respectful observance:

 

District Staff Responsibilities:

The Office of Equity and Integration will develop a calendar of religious holidays that will be distributed District-wide to all staff.  The calendar will provide observance dates and brief descriptions of observance practices that may influence a student's ability to fully participate in any learning activities that are directly or indirectly influenced by the observance practice.

At the beginning of each month, the administrative office of each school or program will publish to instructors a list of holidays that are occurring during that month.

Instructors will be responsible for taking care to design learning activities on holidays that minimize the introduction of information or assignments that would be difficult for students to make up.

Instructors will make all reasonable efforts to avoid conducting tests, labs, and special events on holidays.  If tests, time-bound assignments, labs, or special events, cannot be reasonably adjusted to accommodate holiday observance, adequate time must be given after a student's return to prepare for and make up material missed.

Administrators at each school site should ensure that sensitive and respectful methods are employed to identify students who will be absent from school for a particular religious holiday observance.

 

Student Responsibilities:

Whenever possible, it is highly encouraged that a student or family member notify the instructor of a holiday absence.  Once a student or family member informs instructor of an absence due to religious observance, the instructor and student should seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement for class work and examinations.  If the student and instructor are unable to find  mutually acceptable solution, the matter should be referred to the building or program administrator.