A resource outlining the rights of Hindus in schools, the workplace, public accomodations and facilities, in the immigration process, in the case of bias crimes, and in domestic violence situations, among others.
Hindu American Foundation
Schools and Public Institutions of Higher Learning
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution governs religion in the public school environment. It prohibits public schools from officially or unofficially preferring one religion over others or preferring religion over irreligion. Many state constitutions offer similar protections.
What could unconstitutional religion in public schools look like?
A Hindu student athlete’s football team starts every game with a student-led prayer in which the coach also participates, though the coach does not ever lead the prayer. Thus far, student athletes have recited prayers invoking, “Our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ.” The Hindu student, though very uncomfortable, participates in the prayer for fear that the coach may not give him equal playing time as Christian student athletes.
A sixth grade teacher pulls aside a Hindu student after the social studies unit on Hinduism and calls her faith “evil” and one characterized only by caste, idolatry, and witchcraft. The teacher urges the student to read and accept the truths in the Bible so that the child’s soul can be saved.
A Hindu student group is denied space to meet on campus after school despite other religiously-oriented student clubs being given space.
What can you do?
Help educate others about Hinduism, as lack of awareness could be a reason why a teacher or administrator was hurting your child’s religious freedom.You have both administrative and legal remedies.
In many cases, talking to the principal about a teacher’s inappropriate behavior might resolve the issue and preclude the need to file a formal complaint against the teacher.
Before filing a formal complaint against a teacher or administrator, you may want to consider the repercussions from the school community and might request that your child be reassigned to another school or classroom pending resolution of the matter.
If the problem is one of school policy or curriculum, a lawsuit may be appropriate, and you should contact a lawyer for an assessment of your situation.
[Excerpt from “Know Your Rights: A Pamphlet Produced by the Hindu American Foundation.” Hndu American Foundation. www.hafsite.org. Condensed version available as PDF here.]