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Portfolio #6

Religion and Public Schools

Adrian P. Braybrooke

College of Southern Nevada


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Abstract

“Religion and Public Schools

Karen White, a kindergarten teacher, informed her parents and students that she could no

longer lead certain activities or participate in certain projects because they were religious in

nature according to her newly acquired affiliation with Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant that she

could no longer decorate the classroom for holidays or plan for gift exchanges during the

Christmas season. She also could not sing “Happy Birthday” or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Parents protested and Bill Ward, the school principal, recommended her dismissal based on her

ineffectively meeting the needs of her students.

Is there a justifiable basis for Karen’s dismissal? How do you think the courts would rule

in this case? Present both sides of the argument. Based on the text and court cases, how do you

feel the court will rule in this case? Be sure to list legal references in the support of your

responses.
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Religion and Public Schools

Scenario

A teacher, Karen, found her new religion and claimed that it prevented her from doing

parts of her job. Some of these parts were singing happy birthday, saying the pledge, decorating

for holidays, and planning gift exchanges. She then was recommended for dismissal for not

meeting the needs of her students.

Pro Principal

Teachers represent the school they work for. This being said, they cannot come off as if it

seems they are endorsing a certain religion. As in Downing v. W. Haven Bd. Of Educ., a teacher

could not wear a shirt with Jesus on it as it seemed she were endorsing religion, which is against

the rules. This can relate to this case because, as an educator, it cannot seem you’re endorsing

religion. Karen can be seen to be doing so because her religion is now preventing parts of her job

from getting done.

Pro Principal.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier is a case where the principal restricted the

content of a school mural. This relates to this case because it shows that the principal can make

decisions that have religious ties in whatever view they see best fit for their students. If the

principal at Karen’s school saw her religion could affect her students’ beliefs, then the principal

should be able to dismiss her.


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Pro Karen.

In Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court ruled that no statute could require the hanging of

religious displays. This being said, Karen should not be dismissed because she doesn’t decorate

for holidays, considering most holidays have religious ties. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Saint

Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Easter, and more all have ties to Christianity. If she chooses not to

decorate for these holidays, she should not be on grounds for dismissal.

Pro Karen.

Wigg v. Sioux Falls Sch. Dist. also supports Karen. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled

that a teacher can participate in club meetings regarding religion because they were doing so as a

private individual, not as a teacher, and because it was after school hours. With this being said,

Karen should be able to be whatever religion she wants, as long as she is not forcing it onto her

kids.

Opinion.

I side with Karen. I do not think her religion is grounds for dismissal. She is not required

to hang stuff for holidays, she is not required to sing happy birthday, and she is not required to

stand for the pledge. These are all things that she can choose to do as an individual, and her lack

of participation in these events will not affect her students’ education.


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References

Downing v. West Haven Board of Education, 162 F. Supp. 2d 19 (D. Conn. 2001)

Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al., 484 U.S. 260 (1988)

Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)

Wigg v. Sioux Falls School Dist. 49-5, 259 F. Supp. 2d 967 (D.S.D. 2003).