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Running head: RELIGION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS 1

Religion and Public Schools

Oscar Garcia

College of Southern Nevada


RELIGION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS 2

Abstract

Karen White, a kindergarten teacher, became affiliated with Jehovahs Witnesses, so she

informed her parents and students of the situation. This meant there would be more of a

restriction in her classroom, such as no activities or projects that correlate with holidays. She also

plans to no longer decorate her classroom or sing songs, which were the Happy Birthday song

and Pledge of Allegiance. Parents were outraged by this and Principal Ward asked for Ms. White

to dismiss herself since she could not meet the needs of her students.

Keywords: religion, jenovahs witness, public school.


RELIGION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS 3

Religion and Public Schools

Karen White, a kindergarten teacher, became affiliated with Jehovahs Witnesses, so she

informed her parents and students of the situation. This meant there would be more of a

restriction in her classroom, such as no activities or projects that correlate with holidays. She also

plans to no longer decorate her classroom or sing songs, which were the Happy Birthday song

and Pledge of Allegiance. Parents were outraged by this and Principal Ward asked for Ms. White

to dismiss herself since she could not meet the needs of her students.

One of the rights composed in the First Amendment is the freedom of religion. However,

the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment proposition is to keep the church and state

separated (Cambron-McCabe, McCarthy, & Thomas, 2009). In this clause, neither the state nor

the Federal Government can pass laws that favor a religion, and they cannot aid one or all

religions (Cambron-McCabe et al., 2009). The Goss v. Lopez case states that the students

education is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment if it was state-created (Cambron-McCabe et

al., 2009). Therefore, the student should be notified ahead of time of why their rights have been

violated and an opportunity to give their input. Since the Fourteenth Amendment protects the

liberties of a person, the teacher also has rights in regards to the First Amendment. Meaning, the

teacher is entitled to express their religious belief. When it has become involved with education,

their religious belief has now intertwined with the state (Cambron-McCabe et al., 2009). The

Due Process Clause can then be issued to the teacher with charges against them. This is a long

procedure for dismissal, but the teacher has an opportunity to rebuttal the charges filed against

them.

Since students have the right to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Ms. White has

that same right if it clashes with her religion or belief. The West Virginia State Board of
RELIGION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS 4

Education v. Barnette establishes the idea where students are not required to cite the Pledge of

Allegiance if it conflicted with their religious beliefs (Cambron-McCabe et al., 2009).

Furthermore, Courts have abolished policies or laws that requires student to stand during the

Pledge, but a notification to the parents of nonparticipating students was mandatory. Ms. White

did inform the parents ahead of time that her class was not going to sing songs, such as the

Pledge of Allegiance. She also argues that the school is forcing her to do things that go against

her religious belief. The Abington v. Schempp case concerns with activities in public schools,

such as Bible-reading and the reciting of the Lords Prayer (School District of Abington

Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, n.d.). In this case, the students were allowed to oppose in

these activities as long as they had a written note from their parents. However, the First

Amendments Establishment Clause was violated since these activities were religious

ceremonies and purposely intended by the State. Even with a childs note from their parents that

excuse them from participating, there was no prevention on the schools actions as it violated the

Establishment Clause. In support of Ms. White, the school and State purposely made a

curriculum that involves holidays and patriotism. However, those activities go against her

religion, so the church and state separation clause is not implemented in her case.

The principal and school want their students to be educated in a safe and fun environment

where they can learn holidays they are familiar with and holidays of other cultures. The Florey v.

Sioux Falls case recognizes the issues with Holidays (Cline, 2016). In great detail, the case was

sought to be when a parent argued that the Christmas concerts were endorsing one particular

religion. The courts decided that as long as the use of religious material and holidays were for the

purpose of educating the students, then it was permissible. The school wants Ms. White to use

these holidays and songs to educate her students for historical and cultural differences. The use
RELIGION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS 5

of classroom decorating during holidays is also acceptable as long as it is for a short period of

time and does not endorse one religion. Because Ms. White will not participate in any holiday

activities or the pledge, the school has the right to dismiss her. The Palmer v. Board of Education

of Chicago had a teacher who refused to participate in holiday activities because she was a

Jenovahs Witness (Palmer v. Board of Ed. of City of Chicago, 2015). The school reprimanded

her, but she still rejected some of the activities that correlated with American patriotism. The

courts assume that the teachers refusal to teach the pledge was protected, but her refusal to

participate in holiday activities and songs was not protected according to free speech context.

Although Ms. White is protected by not wanting to cite and teach the pledge, she is not protected

when it relates to holiday activities.

Most of the judges in this case can agree with the schools viewpoints against Ms. White.

She states that it is her right to refuse to recite the pledge according to the West Virginia Board of

Education v. Barnette. She feels as though she is purposely forced to teach activities and sing

songs revolving around holidays, which breaks the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

in her case. However, the school can justify that students have the right to be educated on

holidays and songs for educational purposes based on the Florey v. Sioux Falls case. In addition

to that statement, Ms. White can argue that her right to refuse to teach the Pledge is protected

under the Palmer v. Board of Education of Chicago. In that same case, the school can concur

with that, but they can also add on by stating that not participating in holiday activities is not

protected. As a result, Ms. Whites dismissal will follow through.


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References

Cambron-McCabe, N. H., McCarthy, M. M., & Thomas, S. B. (2009). Legal rights of teachers

and students. Boston: Pearson Education.

Cline, A. (2016). Court decision - florey v. sioux falls school district. Retrieved May 01, 2016,

from http://atheism.about.com/library/decisions/holydays/bldec_FloreySiouxFalls.htm

Palmer v. Board of Ed. of City of Chicago. (2015). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from

http://www.leagle.com/decision/19791066466FSupp600_1966/PALMER v. BOARD OF

ED. OF CITY OF CHICAGO#

School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved May

01, 2016, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1962/142