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Running head: PUBLIC SCHOOL AND RELIGION 1

Public School and Religion

Michelle Quiroz

College of Southern Nevada


PUBLIC SCHOOL AND RELIGION 2

Abstract

A teacher named Karen White began making certain changes to her daily activities, due

to her newly acquired affiliation to Jehovah Whiteness. This meant no more holiday celebrations

such as: Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Valentine’s day; or the recital of the

Pledge of Allegiance or birthday celebrations. Jehovah Whiteness do not celebrate of affiliate

with anything of political or religious nature. Being a kindergarten teacher this affected the

children in certain curricular areas. This began to upset parents and some began to protest for her

termination. Bill Ward, the school principal, recommended her dismissal, although it’s her right

to practice her religion.


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Public School and Religion

Teachers have rights to exercise the First Amendment: freedom of speech, press, and

religion. Granting, there are limitations and restrictions due to the nature of their career. Teachers

must be role models for their students, there for the need to act professional is imperative.

The First Amendment's Establishment Clause protects the right to practice religion. This clause

not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits

government actions that unjustifiably favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the

government from preferring religion over non-religion, or vise-versa. It is a very diverse country

and it’s important to respect others faith. White has the right to practice her religion under the

Establishment Clause, but her employment is technically part of the government. She must

respect the portion of the Establishment Clause which unduly favors a religion over any other

faith.

Students and teachers have the right to the pursuit of due process when facing

disciplinary matters such as suspension. In the case of Goss v Lopez about nine students were

suspended due to misconduct for ten days without a hearing in Columbus, Ohio. It was affirmed

that subjects are entitled to a hearing or a notice of some kind. Although, in the school’s policy, it

was written that students were allowed a hearing only if facing expulsion. That was a direct

violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights and the school’s actions were considered

unconstitutional (Goss v. Lopez., n.d.). Schools have a duty to abide and protocols to follow.

They must recognize student’s rights while maintaining their efforts of growth and discipline. If

Bill Ward motioned to dismiss White, he must give her a notice and an opportunity to receive a

hearing.
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In the case Abington v. Schempp the school violated the establishment clause. The

content concerns Bible reading in public schools. Students were required to read up to ten verses

from the bible and recite prayer every day. It was mandatory in the school, although it was not a

private Christian school. Students could not be excused or excluded from participation, even

with parental permission. Those practices at issue and the laws requiring them are

unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as applied to the States

through the Fourteenth Amendment. The school was violating the student’s rights, for it must be

voluntary not required. Schools are only allowed to use the bible as literature, not public prayer

(School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, n.d.). Not all students are of

the same religion and they have the right to express their own, just like White. She is not forcing

her religious opinion over her students, only excluding certain activities. She has a right to do so

as long as it doesn’t infringe with the student’s curriculum.

Similarly, Florey v Sioux Falls exceeded the boundary between holiday celebration and

religion. Florey, a student attending Sioux Falls, complained about the school’s annual Christmas

Assembly. Florey is an atheist, and was mainly concerned with the singing of Christmas carols.

He claimed that the school was violating his right of Establishment of the First Amendment. It

was the school’s goal to recognize and respect other cultures and religions, without forcing them

upon the students. A committee had set fourth guidelines to abide for holiday celebrations which

included neither endorsing, nor disagreeing with religion, and it must be aimed towards

educational or instructional efforts. The court did not find any evidence that the school was

violating the Establishment Clause nor found any entanglement between Government and

religious statutes, although the school had been accused of exceeding boundaries before (Florey

v. SIOUX FALLS SCH. DIST, n.d.). Some students are more sensitive to public religious
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practices than others. White has not publicly practiced her religion, but chose to exclude certain

subjects and holidays.

Palmer v. Board of Education is similar in contents to White’s situation being that

Palmer’s contract was not renewed due to her refusal to comply with school regulations such as

the Pledge of Allegiance, holidays, and other forms of national and patriotic heritage. Palmer

refused these requests because of her affiliation with Jehovah’s Whiteness. She stated that

freedom of religion was her right under the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment,

but the principal claimed that was not the only reason for her dismissal. She was also not

following the curriculum accordingly and was overall unorganized. Students where not learning

basic knowledge and skills as the other classes of their grade. Freedom to act and practice

religion is allowed, until it infringes on student’s developmental skills. Compliance was asked of

her before her dismissal and she refused (United States Court of Appeals,Seventh Circuit, n.d.).

One cannot teach the way they want in a set system. Besides, she was not a tenured teacher. It

was not mentioned whether White was tenured or not, but that certainly changes things if she is a

probationary teacher. Teachers under probation do not have rights to due process, and can be

dismissed at any time, for any reason.

In a turn of events, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette violated student’s

rights to practice religion. Barnette, a student which was Jehovah’s Whiteness, refused to stand

and salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance. The school compelled its students to recite

the pledge, or action would be taken against them. Students in refusal would be considered

insubordinate, and would be expelled from the school. These students would be charged with

juvenile delinquency and their parents would be fined. Even though it was a school policy, it is

still a violation of the student’s First Amendment rights (West Virginia State Board of Education
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v. Barnette, n.d.). It is not a requirement to participate in the Pledge, especially if it is one’s

religion restricting that. It is unconstitutional to take matters of discipline to the extremes of

termination or expulsion due to one’s religion. There must be a legitimate reason other than an

individual’s faith, according to the Establishment Clause.

White’s methods of teaching affect her student’s ability to appreciate and respect cultural

diversity, which is important to grasp at their young, open-minded age. Although, the school

would have to have valid reasons for her termination. It is not evident that she was ignoring the

district’s curriculum and teaching the children what she wanted them to learn. She was not

forcing her religious views upon her students, or denying the students to practice their own. Her

actions may seem excessive, but she has the right to practice her religion under the Establishment

Clause. It was not mentioned whether White was tenured or probationary, but that would

determine her dismissal. If she is a tenured teacher, she must receive notice of dismissal from the

school and has the right to pursue her right to due process. A probationary teacher doesn’t have

the right to due process, but that information was unavailable. Otherwise, it is White’s right

under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.


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References

Cambron-McCabe, N. H., McCarthy, M. M., & Eckes, S. (2014). Legal rights of teachers and

students. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Carlson, M. D. (2009, June 10). Establishment Clause. Retrieved April 30, 2017, from

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/establishment_clause

Florey v. SIOUX FALLS SCH. DIST. 49-5, 464 F. Supp. 911 (D.S.D. 1979). (n.d.). Retrieved

April 30, 2017, from http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-

courts/FSupp/464/911/1520042/

United States Court of Appeals,Seventh Circuit. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from

http://openjurist.org/603/f2d/1271/palmer-v-board-of-education-of-city-of-chicago

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2017, from

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/319/624

School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30,

2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1962/142