School Holidays? Prayers?

School Holidays? Prayers?Holidays are one source of anxiety for school administrators seeking to define appropriate policies around religion. Questions include: Who should get time off and when? What music should be performed during holiday celebrations? How should holidays be marked (or not)? Student prayer poses another problem; even if the school does not sanction prayer, student-led prayers might exclude or alienate students of minority religions.

Since the early 1960s, the United States Supreme Court has prohibited state-sponsored religious activities in public schools. The Court’s decisions, however, have not eliminated disputes involving religion and education, especially as students generally have a right to express their religious beliefs in a non-disruptive manner. The increased religious diversity in the United States over the last half-century has made these issues even more complex. Two areas—religious holidays and expression, especially prayer—continue to generate conflict.

The “December Dilemma” annually brings to light the issue of public schools and religious holidays as the massive force of American commercial culture mobilizes for Christmas and public schools face the question of whether their districts should acknowledge major religious holidays. If so, whose religious holidays? Even in December, there are many holidays—Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, Bodhi Day or the Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, and Kwanzaa, the African American festival of lights and harvest. What should a school in multireligious America do? Can holidays be opportunities for education, yet not celebrated devotionally? Many remember a time, before the Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s, when a Christmas pageant and a crèche in the public school seemed as American as apple pie. Not so today.

In the small village of Benson, Vermont, for example, a Jewish family expressed concern about Christmas decorations at the local primary school. To their knowledge, the family’s younger son was the only Jewish student at the school and they felt that the decorations—which were made as part of a class activity—made him feel excluded. Fearing backlash against their son, the family expressly asked the school to wait until the holiday season had passed and simply revise the activity in future years. The principal, however, unilaterally decided to remove the decorations and send them home with the students. The principal’s decision caused a firestorm of criticism from other parents, tearing the community apart, and resulted in the young boy bearing the brunt of organized ostracism at school. Eventually, he had to transfer to a private school.

Seasonal concerts have become another manifestation of the “December Dilemma” as objections to exclusively or even predominantly Christian music mount. A Jewish student at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, filed a prominent lawsuit in the late 1990s, objecting to the repeated pattern of concert programs containing nothing but devotional Christian songs. As the student explained:

It made me feel like a second-class citizen in my own choir, because all we were singing was religious Christian music. It wasn’t even pieces that were world-renowned like Handel’s ‘Messiah’ or the ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ It made me sad that the teacher didn’t really take into consideration that there were non-Christians in the choir. It made those of us who aren’t of the majority feel left out.

Adding music from other religious traditions does not necessarily solve the problem either. In December 2011, three elementary schools in Greendale, Wisconsin, planned to include a Hindu song in their seasonal concerts. According to Tom Tolan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “the song, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, was a favorite of Mahatma Gandhi, sung on his famous Salt March to the sea.” After various parents complained, the school district ultimately removed the song (which made reference to Sita, Rama, God, and Allah), from the program. Fox News reported a similar incident in February 2012 when a high school student in Grand Junction, Colorado, refused to sing a Muslim song because the lyrics included the phrase “there is no truth except Allah.” In explaining his decision to leave the school choir, the student said, “I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel that it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song.” A spokesman for the district defended the song selection, arguing it was not chosen as an endorsement or promotion of a particular religion but rather “because its rhythms and other qualities would provide an opportunity to exhibit the musical talent and skills of the group in competition.”

Today, many schools recognize a wide variety of religious holidays throughout the year, extending the conversation well beyond December. In his San Jose Mercury News article, “Religious Holidays Making a Comeback in the Public Schools,” Dave O’Brian reported that the schools within the Berryessa Union School District in California recognize Christmas and Hanukkah, as well as Kwanzaa and Bodhi Day. Throughout the year, the school also acknowledges the holidays of students from Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Mexico, Iran and El Salvador. The superintendent said, “We feel we should operate from a premise of inclusion, rather than exclusion. It is important for our children to be exposed to all areas within our cultural diversity.”

As with seasonal concerts, simple recognition of multiple traditions does not always resolve the challenges of religious holidays in public schools. Although schools generally are required to permit students to observe religious holidays without penalty, missing class can have adverse academic consequences, especially for recent immigrants and second-language learners. For many schools, demographics dictate certain decisions, including when to close for a religious holiday. Without a critical mass of students and staff, holding school can be economically impracticable if not functionally impossible. Thus, in addition to Christmas, schools with a high percentage of Catholic students or staff might close on Good Friday, and schools with a high percentage of Jewish students or staff might close on Yom Kippur, Passover and Rosh Hashanah. As the representation of other religious groups has grown, some schools have closed on additional days such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in districts with a high number of Muslim students. Dearborn, Michigan, where about half of the students in public schools are Muslim, is a prominent example.

The decision to include additional days off in the school calendar need not depend on demographics alone. In 2011, the Cambridge, Massachusetts schools decided to close school on either Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, whichever fell during the school year. Cambridge schools already closed for Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, as well as for Christmas and Good Friday. Concern for equal recognition—not demographics—drove this decision. In his memo to the school committee, the superintendent wrote, “There is no question that the world is becoming more pluralistic and we should use this occasion to take concrete action to promote the spirit of pluralism, inclusion and social justice.”

This approach, however, has its limits. In 2009, when the New York City Council proposed to close city schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the plan. If schools closed on these holidays, where would the city draw the line? Demographics, Bloomberg insisted, should dictate when schools close. Some school districts have begun to eliminate days off for all religious holidays altogether—except for Christmas, which some argue is semi-secular—reasoning that this is the most equitable response to increasing religious diversity.

Prayer in public schools is another source of persistent conflict that raises fundamental issues of pluralism. Although the United States Supreme Court banned daily school prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962), the decision did not end disputes over prayer in public schools. Some schools continued to sponsor devotional prayers while others discouraged any form of religious expression. There were obvious questions: Should a Catholic child in Utah hear a Mormon prayer in school? Should a Muslim student in Atlanta be asked to listen to a Christian prayer or a Christian student to participate in a Muslim or Hindu one? The school prayer controversy has aroused concern among many people, including those of minority traditions and those who claim no religious tradition. Some organizations, like the Buddhist Churches of America, have issued a statement on the topic. The BCA has argued that “allowing any form of prayer in schools and public institutions would create a state sanction of a type of religion which believes in prayer and ‘the Supreme Being,’ would have the effect of establishing a national religion and, therefore, would be an assault on the religious freedom of Buddhists.”

In an attempt to provide some clarity, the Department of Education released guidelines in 1995 on religious expression and education. As President Clinton explained, “some Americans have been denied the right to express their religion, and that has to stop.” Schools, he contended, were never intended to be “religion-free zones.” While learning about religion is essential and expression of students’ personal convictions is permitted, both the president and the Department of Education made clear the presence of a firm line between student expression and school advocacy of a particular religion.

Graduation ceremonies are proof that the distinction between school-sponsored and student-initiated religious expression may seems clear in theory, but is not always so in practice. Although school officials may not offer a prayer or invite an outside speaker to offer one, they generally are not responsible for prayers initiated by student speakers. What constitutes a student-initiated prayer, however, is subject to dispute. Is a graduation prayer student-initiated if school officials know in advance that the student speaker plans to offer the prayer? What if the school lets the students vote in advance? If so, must the vote be unanimous? A high school in Stanford, Kentucky, for example, traditionally included a student-led prayer at graduation, but cancelled the prayer in 2013 when six students objected. The senior class president, however, unilaterally included a Judeo-Christian prayer in his speech. He received a standing ovation.

Another example of the lack of clarity between state-sponsored and student-initiated prayers arises in the context of athletic events. In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000), the United States Supreme Court held that prayers offered over a stadium public address system before high school football games were unconstitutional. The majority concluded that the prayers appeared to be endorsed by the school, even if they were student-initiated and student-led. More recently, a state court in Texas ruled that high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas may include Bible verses on paper banners they created for football players to run through before games. As reported by Manny Fernandez of the New York Times, the banners contained religious messages, including Bible verses such as Hebrews 12:1, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” The cheerleaders filed suit after school district officials ordered them to stop including religious messages on the banners. As with Santa Fe Independent School District, a critical question is whether the banners are simply student-initiated speech or appear to be endorsed by the school. Although the cheerleaders initially prevailed in the state trial court, the school district appealed the decision.

Schools generally have to accommodate student religious expression that is not disruptive, but the degree of permissible accommodation is not always clear. Schools, for example, must allow individual students to pray silently, such as before a meal or test, but do they have to give students release time to pray? Various districts, for example, release observant Muslim students from class to pray or modify their daily schedule to accommodate prayers during lunch or other breaks. Some see such accommodations as the improper school-sponsorship of prayer, especially if the school designates a specific place for the students to pray rather than allowing them to simply use, for instance, an open classroom.

What about other ways in which schools are asked to accommodate religious belief? The cafeteria is one challenge, where vegetarian food is increasingly requested for Hindu and Jain students, among others. But there are other requests, too. In 1992, the Islamic Society of North America issued a brochure, “You Have a Muslim Child in Your School,” that spells out some of the basics of Islam for school teachers and administrators. It also details the range of expectations Muslim parents have, and hope that the school will respect. Muslim students should not be required to sit next to the opposite sex in the classroom, to participate in swimming or dancing classes, to participate in co-educational physical education classes, or to participate in any event or activity related to Christmas, Easter, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day. How should schools respond?

Fifty years have passed since the United States Supreme Court first ruled state-sponsored devotional activities in public schools unconstitutional; however, issues surrounding religious holidays and expression remain on the agenda of America’s schools. Despite—or perhaps in light of—continued conflict, multiple sources of guidance exist for students and parents, teachers and administrators, clergy, and legislators—all of whom have an interest and perspective in these issues. Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Schools by Charles C. Haynes and Oliver Thomas, published in 2007 by the First Amendment Center, is one extensive overview of these questions and resources.

Additional Content

Religious Holidays in the Public Schools: Questions and Answers

This document is jointly sponsored and distributed by seventeen religious, legal, and educational bodies in the United States, whose names are listed at the end.

Since 1776 the United States has grown from a nation of relatively few religious differences to one of countless religious groups. This expanding pluralism challenges the public schools to deal creatively and sensitively with students professing many religions and none.

The following questions and answers concern religious holidays and public education, a subject often marked by confusion and conflict. Teachers and school officials, as well as parents and students, should approach this discussion as an opportunity to work cooperatively for the sake of good education rather than at cross-purposes.

School districts developing guidelines about religious holidays will want to base their policies in the shared commitment of respect for individual religious beliefs expressed in the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty. This means that public schools may neither promote nor inhibit religious belief or non-belief. Drafters of such guidelines also will want to take account of the role of religion in history and culture.

Awareness of legal issues is essential in considering religion and public education, but the law does not supply answers to every question. Within the current legal framework, schools—their boards, administrators, teachers, parents and students—must make many practical decisions regarding religious holidays. This work can be done only by showing sensitivity to the needs of every student on the one hand and the promotion of religion on the other.

For further assistance and materials, contact the sponsoring organizations.

Q:  What do the courts say?
A:  The Supreme Court has ruled that public schools may not sponsor religious practices (Engel v. Vitale, 1962; Abington v. Schempp, 1963) but may teach about religion.

While having made no definitive ruling on religious holidays in the schools, the Supreme Court let stand a lower federal court decision stating that recognition of holidays may be constitutional if the purpose is to provide secular instruction about religious traditions rather than to promote the particular religion involved (Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, 8th Cir., 1980).

Q:   Do religious holidays belong in the curriculum?
A:  The study of religious holidays may be included in elementary and secondary curricula as opportunities for teaching about religions. Such study serves the academic goals of educating students about history and cultures as well as the traditions of particular religions in a pluralistic society.

Q:  When should teaching about religious holidays take place?
A:  On the elementary level, natural opportunities arise for discussion of religious holidays while studying different cultures and communities. In the secondary curriculum, students of world history or literature have opportunities to consider the holy days of religious traditions. Teachers find it helpful when they are provided with an inclusive calendar noting major religious and secular holidays with brief descriptions of their significance.

Q:  How should religious holidays be treated in the classroom?
A:  Teachers must be alert to the distinction between teaching about religious holidays, which is permissible, and celebrating religious holidays, which is not. Recognition of and information about holidays may focus on how and when they are celebrated, their origins, histories and generally agreed-upon meanings. If the approach is objective and sensitive, neither promoting nor inhibiting religion, this study can foster understanding and mutual respect for differences in belief.

Teachers will want to avoid asking students to explain their beliefs and customs. An offer to do so should be treated with courtesy and accepted or rejected depending on the educational relevancy.

Teachers may not use the study of religious holidays as an opportunity to proselytize or to inject personal religious beliefs into the discussion. Teachers should avoid this by teaching through attribution; i.e. by reporting that “some Buddhists believe…”

Q:  May religious symbols be used in public school classes?
A:  The use of religious symbols, provided they are used only as examples of cultural or religious heritage is permissible as a teaching aid or resource. Religious symbols may be displayed only on a temporary basis as part of the academic program. Students may choose to create artwork with religious symbols, but teachers may not assign or suggest such creations.

Q:  May religious music be used in public schools?
A:  Sacred music may be sung or played as part of the academic study of music. School concerts that present a variety of selections may include religious music. Concerts should avoid programs dominated by religious music, especially when these coincide with a particular religious holiday.

The use of art, drama or literature with religious themes is also permissible if it serves a sound educational goal in the curriculum, but not if used as a vehicle for promoting religious belief.

Q:  What about Christmas?
A:  Decisions about what to do in December should begin with the understanding that public schools may not sponsor religious devotions or celebrations; study about religious holidays does not extend to religious worship or practice.

Q:  Does this mean that all seasonal activities must be banned from the schools?
A:  Probably not, and in any event, such an effort would be unrealistic. The resolution would seem to lie in devising holiday programs that serve an educational purpose for all students—programs that make no students feel excluded or identified with a religion not their own.

Holiday concerts in December may appropriately include music related to Christmas and Hanukkah, but religious music should not dominate. Any dramatic productions should emphasize the cultural aspects of the holidays. Nativity pageants or plays portraying the Hanukkah miracle are not appropriate in the public school setting.

In short, while recognizing the holiday season, none of the school activities in December should have the purpose, or effect, of promoting or inhibiting religion.

Q:  What about religious objections to some holidays?
A:  Students from certain religious traditions may ask to be excused from classroom discussions or activities related to particular holidays. Some holidays considered by many people to be secular (for example, Halloween and Valentine’s Day) are viewed by others as having religious overtones.

Excusal requests may be especially common in the elementary grades where holidays are often marked by parties and similar non-academic activities. Such requests are routinely granted.

In addition, some parents and students may make requests for excusal from discussions of certain holidays even when treated from an academic perspective. If focused on a limited, specific discussion, such requests may be granted in order to strike a balance between the student’s religious freedom and the school’s interest in providing a well-rounded education.

Administrators and teachers should understand that a policy of excusing students from a specific activity or discussion can not be used as a rational for school sponsorship of religious celebration or worship for the remaining students.

Q:  May students be absent for religious holidays?
A:  Sensitive school policy on absences will take account of the religious needs and requirements of students. Students should be allowed a reasonable number of excused absences, without penalties, to observe religious holidays within their traditions. Students may be asked to complete makeup assignments or examinations in conjunction with such absences.

Q:  What steps should school districts take?
A:  In a pluralistic society, public schools are places for persons of all faiths and none. Schools may neither promote nor denigrate any religion. In order to respect religious liberty and advance education, we recommend that each school district take the following steps:

  • Develop policies about the treatment of religious holidays in the curricula and inform parents of those policies.
  • Offer pre-service and in-service workshops to assist teachers and administrators in understanding the appropriate place of religious holidays in the schools.
  • Become familiar with the nature and needs of the religious groups in the school community.
  • Provide resources for teaching about religions and religious holidays in ways that are constitutionally permissible and educationally sound.

Sponsored jointly by:

American Academy of Religion
American Association of School Administrators
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish Congress
Americans United Research Foundation
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Baptist Joint Community on Public Affairs
Christian Legal Society
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
National Association of Evangelicals
National Conference of Christians and Jews
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
National Council on Religion and Public Education
National Council for the Social Studies
National Education Association
National School Boards Association

[“Religious Holidays in the Public Schools: Questions and Answers.” Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. www.freedomforum.org. 2011.]

“Religious Music in Public Schools”

A series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on State/Church issues addresses the question of of the legality of religious music in public schools.

Freedom from Religion Foundation
Last updated: September 14, 2009

Annie Laurie Gaylor

Religious Music in Public Schools

My child’s choir is singing religious music. Is that legal?

In its more than three decades of activism, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken more complaints over promotion of religion in public school music classes and team sports than any other type of complaint!

It is a principle of our public educational system that every activity in a public school ought to have an educational purpose. The line is crossed when that purpose becomes devotional, proselytizing or religiously-coercive.

What to Look For

  1. Is the religious song or music in question chosen for its educational value or its religious content?
  2. What are the ages of the children studying this music (e.g., is this music class in kindergarten or optional honors chorus in high school?).
  3. Is there an educational value to the song (e.g., are students being introduced to Brahms, Hayden, Verdi, or is this a devotional Sunday school song?).
  4. Is the song in question sung only once or twice in class, or is it drilled daily or studied for public performance? An incidental use of music you find questionable that is in the District’s accepted music text is very different than a song used in concert that is practiced frequently.
  5. Does the school district schedule public concerts only for Christmas and Easter. Does it use religious holiday titles?
  6. At public concerts, are the majority of songs religious? While Irving Berlin’s song, “White Christmas,” is considered secular by the courts, it hardly balances out a concert otherwise containing only Christmas carols (hymns). Many Christmas carols are strongly theological, especially in the second and third verses. Nine Christmas songs and one “Dreidel Song” does not a balanced concert make. There should be diversity, other cultures represented, something non-holy-day/non-Hanukah related! As a student or parent, you can demand better and help educate.
  7. Are there religious symbols used at concerts? Is this performance in a devotional setting? Are student bands, orchestras or choruses being inappropriately recruited by public school employees to “volunteer” for nativity pageants, concerts in religious settings or to sing with church choirs?
  8. Is the music teacher, band leader or choral director making statements that actively promote religion, rather than instruction helping to promote music comprehension and mastery?

Generally speaking, thoughtful courts looking at religious music in public schools consider age of children; proportion of religious songs sung compared to secular; context (classroom or concert). Is the religious music at a ceremony or event that children must attend, or would wish to partake in, such as a graduation ceremony?

Deciding whether songs with deeper historic and academic merit cross that line between music education and an exploitation of a captive audience depends largely on context and circumstances. If a curriculum is balanced, the inclusion of some classical sacred music in an educational context may not convey endorsement. If school chorus curricula or performances routinely feature only sacred music, that is suspect.

[Excerpt from “Religious Music in Public Schools.” Annie Laurie Gaylor. Freedom from Religion Foundation. www.ffrf.org. Last updated: September 14, 2009.]

Khalsa Kids: Know Your Rights

In 2007, the Sikh Coalition launched Khalsa Kids, a web-based resource for Sikh youth. The site explains their rights in public schools, profiles young Sikhs in the arts, business, even professional race car driving, and includes resources for teachers and information about Sikhism. Resources on the website are available in English and Punjabi. Below is the text of a handout for familiarizing Sikh youth with their rights in public schools.

In our post-9/11 world, Sikhs kids are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Federal law protects children from bias-based harassment in school. So that they can stand up for themselves, the Sikh Coalition wants Sikh kids and parents to know their rights!

I. All students who attend public schools have the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying based upon their religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin.

What is discrimination? 

Discrimination, harassment, or bullying can occur 1) by a student against another student, or 2) by a teacheradministrator, or principal against a student.

Some examples of discrimination, harassment, or bullying in school by a student are:

a. Physical or psychological abuse: Attacking, threatening, or scaring a student because s/he is Sikh or South Asian
b. Name-calling / Teasing / Using hateful or insulting words, jokes or stereotypes: Osama Bin Laden, terrorist, diaper head, towel head, Go back to your country! ... genie, rag head
c. Graffiti: Writing hateful comments (like the ones described above) or drawing offensive pictures on walls, desks, or books d. Spreading hate-based rumors about a student e. Harassing someone through the internet (e-mail, chat rooms, Facebook, etc.)

Some examples of discrimination or harassment in school by a teacher, administrator, or principal against a student are when:

a. A teacher refuses to admit a student to class, refuses to call on him/her, or seats the student in the back of the room explicitly because s/he is Sikh or South Asian.

b. A teacher asks a Sikh student about his/her turban in a hostile or humiliating manner.

What does a school have to do about it?

If your school knows that you are being subject to discrimination, harassment, or bullying because of your religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, the school must try to stop it.

If the school is deliberately indifferent, does not try very hard to stop the harassment, or is perpetrating the discrimination, then the school itself may be violating the law.

a. An example where a New Jersey school may have violated the law for not protecting a student against hateful bullying can be found at: http://www.sikhcoalition.org/advisories/VirdeeCase01.htm

What can you do?

If you are a student, talk to an adult that you trust. For kids, more information on talking about bullying can be found at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/kids

If you are a parent, talk to your child first, and then to a teacher or school administrator about the problem. For adults, more information on talking about bullying can be found at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/engage-parents

II. All students who attend public schools in the USA have the right to believe, practice, and express their religion. 

Students have the right to wear religious headwear (like turbans and patkas) and other articles of faith (like karas) to school.

Students have the right to take days off for observance of Sikh holidays. Just make sure you tell your teacher beforehand, so that you can make up missed classwork.

Students have the right to participate in religious groups or clubs in school (for example, Sikh Student Associations) on an equal basis with other (non-religious) groups.

III. All students in public schools and their parents have the right to seek outside help if a school does not resolve a problem of discrimination, harassment or bullying.

If talking to the school does not solve the problem, you can contact the following groups:

1) The Sikh Coalition

o E-mail legal@sikhcoalition.org.
o Register a problem on the Sikh Coalition’s online hate crime & bias incident database at: https://www.sikhcoalition.org/resources/?fwp_resource_types=reports-publications.

2) The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

o File a complaint with the DOJ online at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/edo/filecomp.htm.
o File a complaint with the DOJ by phone at 1-877-292-3804 (toll-free).

3) The U.S. Department of Education

o File a complaint with the Department of Education online at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.

...

[“Know Your Rights as a Sikh Student in a Public School (Federal Law).” The Sikh Coalition. Khalsa Kids. www.khalsakids.org, 2007.]

Know Your Rights: A Pamphlet by the Hindu American Foundation

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.” Hindu American Foundation. https://www.hinduamerican.org/.]