Student Bill of Rights
Overreaction to decisions by the courts regarding prayer and religion in the public schools has led some overly cautious schools to prevent students from doing what they have a Constitutional right to do in the free exercise of their religion. To clarify this confusion, Foundation for Traditional Values has prepared the following “Student Bill of Rights,” which represents the current state of the law and lets you know what you can and cannot do. (The purpose of this document is informational and is not intended to give you specific legal advice).
1. Prayer. You may pray anytime, anyplace, silently or out loud, provided that there is not a rule that you must remain silent or that all speech is limited, such as during classroom instruction. You may not pray so loudly that it disturbs others, anymore than you are permitted to shout or engage in loud, noxious speech about non-religious topics.
2. Religious Discussion. You may meet on school grounds to discuss religious issues or to try to persuade other students to accept your religious beliefs. If you are free to discuss or debate other issues with classmates, you may also discuss your religious faith with them. You may not, however, force others to listen.
3. Distributing Religious Literature, Bible Study. Distributing religious literature on school grounds may not be restricted just because it is religious or that some students may find it disturbing. Religious literature may not be singled out for special regulation. You may carry or study your Bible, Tanach or other religious literature while at school unless the Bible study interferes with classroom work or other legitimate school activities.
4. Pins, Signs, Symbols and Messages on Clothing. You may wear or display religious pins, signs, symbols and/or messages on clothing if they are not vulgar, lewd, obscene or indecent.
5. Papers, Study Projects. Generally, you may express your beliefs about religion in homework, art-work, and other written or oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of your submissions. But please note carefully. Such home and classroom work must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance. (By “relevance,” a student must not stray from the subject matter of an assignment. For example, when asked to describe the development of the steam engine, the student may not write about his conversion experience, but if asked to write about the most important event in his life, he could describe his conversion experience). In other words, schools may control the style and content of school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate academic or teaching concerns.
6. Religious Holidays. Music, art, literature and drama that have religious themes are permitted as part of the curriculum for school activities if presented objectively as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of the particular holiday.
7. Rules and Discipline. School authorities may impose rules of order, but they may not structure or administer such rules to discriminate against religious activity or speech.
8. Equal Access. A school that allows one or more student, non-curriculum-related clubs to meet on its premises during non-instructional time may not refuse equal access to student religious groups. Religious groups and clubs must also have equal access to publicizing meetings as other non-religious groups, such as use of the bulletin board, photocopier, the student newspaper or the public address system.
In general, the school, its administrators and teachers may neither encourage nor discourage religious activities. Activities that are otherwise permitted cannot be restricted nor regulated differently because of their religious content. If you have any questions, contact:
Foundation for Traditional Values, P. O. Box 26095, Lansing, MI 48909-6095
Phone: (517) 321-6233. Fax: (517) 321-6077. E-mail: GOFTV@aol.com.
© Copyright 1998 Foundation for Traditional Values
This page may be reprinted and distributed without permission provided it is not edited or modified in any manner.