Administrative Rules and Procedures to Implement Policy 604.05

Due to the inherent impressionability and increasing diversity of students in the Elkhorn Public Schools, it shall be the responsibility of the superintendent and all district staff members to ensure that learning activities, student exhibits and student programs shall conform to the following:

1. The activity or program must have a secular purpose.
2. The principal or primary effect of the activity or program must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
3. The activity or program must not foster an excessive governmental entanglement with religion.

A Secular Purpose

Schools must advance education. There should be an educational purpose for every lesson, activity or program. District staff members should avoid any religious instruction that inhibits or advances religion. Activities should be planned to be inclusive and pluralistic. If students create a religious product (picture, painting or story) of their own free will, it should be accepted and displayed as any other student work. The staff member shall not, however, direct or assign such a project as this would be viewed as promoting a religious perspective.

Religion in the Curriculum

1. It is permissible to teach about religion in the public schools. Religion may be presented as part of a secular education program with the goal of teaching students about the role of religion in the historical, cultural, economic and social development of civilization. Religion must be discussed in a neutral, objective, balanced and factual manner.

2. Religious books/documents (e.g., the Bible) may be studied as literature, but not as religious doctrine. The lessons using religious books/documents must be secular, religiously neutral and objective.

3. Students may be excused from classes/activities/performances to which they/or their parents/guardians object on religious grounds.

Religious Holidays

1. Teachers may teach about religious holidays as part of an objective and secular educational program. Celebrating religious holidays in the form of religious worship or other similar practices is prohibited. The study of holidays should reflect the diverse heritage of the United States.

2. Religious symbols, such as crosses, creches or menorahs may be used as teaching aids in the classroom provided that the symbols are displayed as an example of the cultural and/or religious heritage of the holiday and are temporary in nature. If put on a bulletin board, religious symbols may be viewed as promoting a certain religious perspective. (Christmas trees, Santa Claus and Easter eggs and bunnies are considered to be secular, seasonal symbols and may be displayed as teaching aids provided they do not disrupt the instructional program for students.)

3. Music, art, literature and drama with religious themes may be included in teaching about holidays, provided that they are presented in a religiously neutral, prudent and objective manner and related to sound, secular educational goals.

Religion Neutral Programs

1. Religious music or drama may be included in school events which are part of a secular program of education. The content of school special events, assemblies, concerts and programs must be primarily secular, objective and educational and not focus on any one religion or religious observance. Such event should not promote or denigrate any particular religion, serve as a religious celebration or become a forum for religious devotion.

2. School music programs may include some religious songs provided the content features mostly secular songs and that the concert as a whole is primarily educational, secular, objective and non-denominational.

3. Music educators should exercise caution and good judgment in selecting religious music for study and programming for public performances. The following questions should be addressed in the planning for any public program:

a) Is the music selected on the basis of its musical and educational value rather than its religious context?
b) Are the traditions of diverse peoples shared and respected?
c) Has excessive use of religious music, religious symbols or scenery, and performances in devotional settings avoided?
d) Is the role of music selected one of neutrality, neither promoting nor inhibiting religious views?
e) Does the music selected provide a varied and balanced experience for students in studying and performing music of diverse styles, periods and cultures?

Objections to Learning Activities, Student Exhibits and Student Programs

Any student, parent/guardian, resident or employee of the school district may formally challenge learning activities, student exhibits and student programs on the basis of appropriateness and compliance with the above guidelines. Such objections shall follow the procedures outlines in Policy 606.02.

Sources include:
Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403U.S.602 (1971); Florey v. Sioux Falls Dist. 49-5, 619F.2d1311(8th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 449U.S.987 (1980); Music Educators conference (1987)

Approved: July 10, 2000
Revised: August 14, 2006