Category I: Instruction
Procedure I3: Religion In The Schools
The United States Constitution, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and related court rulings clearly establish the concept of “church and state separation” and the “preclusion of sectarian instruction in public schools.” Religious belief and disbelief are personal matters and not associated with government operations. Given this, the observance of religious holidays is not the responsibility of the public schools.
It is a responsibility of the District is to teach mutual understanding of diversity and respect for all individuals and beliefs. In pursuit of this goal, the District is cognizant of the fact that holidays are observed differently by different groups. It is also recognized that religious holidays can be historically as well as culturally significant.
In order to help staff members abide by the spirit and letter of the law and to avoid compromising any student’s religious or conscientious beliefs or freedoms, the following should serve as guidance:
- The purposes and objectives of any religious holiday activities shall be related to the historical and cultural effect of that day/days and such activities will remain secular.
- Educational opportunities may provide students with opportunities to understand religious events and customs.
- Equitable time and opportunity should be provided for educational opportunities regarding holiday events from various religions.
The above statements should not be interpreted to preclude the factual and objective teaching about religions, religious holidays, and religious differences. Such instruction will be permitted in the schools since insights in this area can enhance the mutual understanding needed by all the people in a pluralistic society.