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Running Head: RELIGION IN SCHOOLS 1

Religion in Schools

Portfolio Assignment 6

Cameron Wilson

College of Southern Nevada


Running Head: RELIGION IN SCHOOLS 2

A kindergarten teacher who had recently become a Jehovah’s Witness informed her

students and their parents that she would no longer be able to participate in school activities that

were religious in nature. This meant that she couldn’t sing happy birthday, say the pledge, or take

part in holiday celebrations. The parents of the students protested. The principal suggested that

the teacher be dismissed because she could not effectively meet the needs of her students.

In defense of the teacher, students are not the only ones who maintain their constitutional

rights when they enter school. Teachers do, too. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids

discrimination based on religion in schools. The teacher has every right to be a Jehovah’s

Witness and should not lose her job because of her inability to partake in the celebration of

holidays. There are ways to inform students about holiday traditions and activities without

directly being involved in them.

Another case that may support the teacher is West Virginia Board of Education v.

Barnette. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Free Speech Clause of the First

Amendment protected students from being forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. They found

that forcing students to salute or say the pledge was unconstitutional. If students have the right to

decide whether they want to stand for the pledge or not, then certainly teachers must have the

same right. Like the freedom to practice any religion you’d like, the decision to stand for the

pledge should be a personal choice.

In defense of the principal and the parents, they probably feel as if the teacher will not be

able to effectively teach students about holiday traditions and celebrations without being

involved in them. It would be understandable to have the teacher dismissed if she was displaying

Jehovah’s Witness displays in the classroom, like in the case of Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City

School District Board of Education in Ohio. When Mr. Freshwater refused to remove his
Running Head: RELIGION IN SCHOOLS 3

religious displays from the classroom, he was terminated for repeatedly violating the

Establishment Clause.

The First Amendment could also be used to support the principal’s decision. Although its

purpose is to protect people and allow them to practice their chosen religions freely, it could also

work against the teacher being that her religious beliefs are preventing her students from learning

about holiday traditions. If her religion is getting in the way of the students’ educations, then

there’s a problem. The main priority of the school district, the principal, and the parents, are the

students.

In my opinion, I don’t think the principal has reasonable cause to dismiss the teacher. As

stated previously, I believe that there is a way for the teacher to go about explaining the holidays

and helping her students understand more about them without being an active participant in the

festivities. What kind of example would her getting fired set for her students? We’re supposed to

teach them tolerance and how to be inclusive, and firing a teacher who is a Jehovah’s Witness for

abiding by the rules of her religion would be counterproductive in that aspect.


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References

King, N. J. (1977, April 30). Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Expansion of Program

Responsibilities. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED143727

Let's ace law school. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2017, from

https://www.quimbee.com/cases/west-virginia-state-board-of-education-v-barnette

Freshwater v. Mt. Vernon City School District Board of Education (Ohio). (n.d.). Retrieved October 21,

2017, from https://www.appellate.net/experience/freshwater-v-mt-vernon-city-school-district-board-of-

education-ohio/

U.S. Constitutional Amendments. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2017, from

http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendments.html