In order to ensure clarity in application of the District's religious expression policy, the following guidelines have been developed and implemented.
Prayer During Noninstructional Time
Students are permitted to engage in religious expression during noninstructional time, i.e., before school, after school, during lunch and recess and while not engaged in school activities. Religious expressions permitted include Bible reading, prayer, scripture reading, saying grace before meals. However, the exercise of constitutional rights of religious expression may not be engaged in when the expression disrupts educational activities or school-sponsored activities. The decision to participate or not participate in religious expression is a matter of individual choice. No student will be permitted to harass or intimidate other students to participate or refrain from participating in religious expression.
Access of Student Religious Groups to School Media
Religious related student groups will be given the same access to school facilities and school communications as are given to other noncurricular student groups. For example, and to the extent that noncurricular student groups are permitted to advertise in school media, participate in school announcements, make use of student activity bulletin boards and hand out leaflets announcing group activities, religious related groups will be given the same privileges. In all instances, the District maintains the right to control the means and timing of such activities. In all such matters, the District neither favors nor disfavors religious related student groups or the activities sponsored by such groups.
Release Time for Religious Activities
Upon written parental request, students may be released from school to participate in off-premises religious instruction or to satisfy religious obligations. Students who are released from class for religious activities will not be penalized for missing school. However, such students will be responsible for all assignments and for the content of lessons missed. The District will not provide transportation to or from off-premises for religious observances and will not be responsible for the safety or welfare of students while away from school.
Religious Expression in Class Assignments
Students are free to express their personal beliefs about religion in homework assignments, artwork or other written or oral assignments. Such assignments will be evaluated by teachers based upon academic standards of substance, quality and relevance. Students will neither be rewarded nor penalized because of the religious content or lack of religious content in their assignments.
Student Assemblies and Extracurricular Activities
Generally, school administrators will determine or substantially control the content of what is expressed at student assemblies and at extracurricular activities. In such cases religious expression will not be permitted as the religious expression may be attributed to the school or seen as an endorsement of a particular religious belief or expression. However, in instances where students are selected to speak at assemblies based upon neutral selection criteria and where the student speaker has primary control over the content of his/her oral presentation, the school will not restrict the student speech because of its religious or anti-religious content. In such cases, school authorities will publicly clarify that the content of the student's speech is the speaker's and not the school's.
Prayer at Graduation/Baccalaureate Ceremonies
Where students or other graduation speakers are selected on the basis of neutral criteria and retain control over the content of their speech, the content of the speech will not be restricted because of the religious or anti-religious content of the speech. The school disclaims responsibility for such speech - neither encouraging nor discouraging its content. However, neither District nor school officials may direct or encourage prayer at graduation or select speakers because of the expectation that such speakers will include religious expressions in their speech.
To the extent that the District makes its facilities and related services available to private groups, the District will provide similar access and on similar terms to private groups for a baccalaureate ceremony. The District and the school will not mandate student attendance nor participate in the organization of the ceremony. School employees are free to attend but will not be required to attend the private baccalaureate ceremony.
Religious Activities of School Employees
When not engaging in work-related activities, i.e., before school or during lunch, school employees may take part in religious activities such as prayer or Bible study. Such activities should be conducted in private in order to avoid the appearance that the employees are acting in their employment responsibilities. School employees are prohibited from encouraging or discouraging religious expression and from actively participating in religious expression with students.
Religious Emblems or Garments
School personnel shall not require students to remove religious emblems or garments if they are worn in a non-disruptive manner
Certification of Compliance
The District will provide annual written certification of compliance that the District does not maintain any policy that prevents or denies participation in constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. This certification will be provided to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on or by October 1 annually. A copy of the certification will be maintained in the District's administration office and will be available for public review.