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Religious Holiday Observance and Religious Expression

Policy IMDC

Adopted: May 17, 2001
Amended: June 11, 2015

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The Hopkinton Public Schools are committed to respecting cultural and religious diversity. The United States 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.”

The Hopkinton School Committee has issued this policy in an attempt to balance that commitment with its recognition that the observance of religious holidays is not the responsibility of the public schools.

In schools it is permissible to teach about religion in the context of history, literature, art, music, or other core subjects. Religious traditions, including holidays, provide an excellent opportunity for learning about different cultures and allow for fostering understanding and tolerance of diversity for our students who live in a pluralistic society. The tone and spirit of school activities must respect the many religious differences in the school population, neither promoting any particular religion nor inhibiting a child’s right to his or her own religion. Students of all religious backgrounds (or no religion) should feel that the schools respect their beliefs.

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.

In order to help staff members abide by the spirit and letter of the law, and to avoid compromising any student’s religious freedoms, the following guidelines have been established:

Guidelines:

Excused Absences - The Hopkinton Public Schools will allow excused absences to celebrate religious holidays. These excused absences will not count towards the 7 days allowable per semester.

Notification of Absence - You are expected to notify your child’s teacher(s) that your child will miss class in order to observe a religious holiday by submitting the attached form. Elementary form Secondary form

Homework/Assignments – A student’s observance of a religious holiday may have an impact on work that is due. The student is expected to complete work assigned around a religious holiday, including any tests or quizzes that were scheduled on days missed within one week of the missed days.

Sports and Extra-curricular Activities – Students shall not be penalized because they are unable to participate in a sporting event, practice, try-out or any other extra-curricular activity due to their observance of a religious holiday. Students who were absent due to a religious holiday observance will be permitted to participate in athletic competitions and practices even if they have not attended school on that day.

Religious Symbols – As part of their teaching about religious holidays and the role religion plays in history, literature, culture, and the arts, teachers may display IMDC religious symbols and displays associated with religious holidays as teaching aids or resources only during the period of instruction. These religious symbols or religious holiday displays are not permitted in public spaces such as hallways, cafeteria, or common space and no such symbol or display may be visible from outside the school facility. No religious symbols, including those related to holidays, should be represented on teacher generated papers and materials unless these materials directly relate to curricular study about the religion or culture.

Freedom of Expression – Students’ personal expression of religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment, are appropriate and encouraged. In completing an assignment, a student may chose to include religious statements or symbols and these works may be displayed in ways consistent with any other student-generated work. Homework, art work, and written and oral assignments that express a student’s religious beliefs should be judged by ordinary academic standards and relevance.

In addition, despite everyone’s best efforts, there may be times when a student or his or her parent feels the need for the student to be excused from a particular activity that is objectionable on the basis of religion or personal belief or practice. The District will excuse such student without causing embarrassment or penalty to the student.

Music – Student music performances may contain pieces chosen for their musical content and representing a variety of religious and cultural traditions. Religious music may be part of but not dominate such concerts. Decisions about musical selections are curricular decisions to be made by the Music Department, subject to approval of the building principal.

Legal References:

M.G.L. c.76, s.1

School Committee Policies

A - Foundations and Basic Commitments

B - School Board Governance and Operations

C - General School Administration

D - Fiscal Management

E - Support Services

F - Facilities Development

G - Personnel

H - Negotiations

There are no policies under this code at this time.

I - Instructional Program

J - Students

K - School-Community Relations

L - Education Agency Relations

There are no policies under this code at this time.