As Christians, our faith isn’t confined to the four walls of a church building. The Gospel commands us to go out and tell the world about the love of Jesus. Today, some of the ripest mission fields for the Gospel are schools, and some of the best evangelists are our children. As this new school year starts, help your student know how he or she can live out their faith at school. We’ve answered five of the most common questions about student rights at school below. Keep this handy, and if you believe your student’s right to live out their faith at school has been violated, contact us
to see how we can help.
Do students have the right to express their religious beliefs at school?
- Yes, students have the right to share their beliefs, pray, evangelize, read Scripture, and invite students to participate in such activities during free time so long as they do not (1) substantially interfere with the operation of the school or (2) infringe on the rights of other students. The right to expression also extends to the clothes students wear. Students may thus wear religious clothing to the extent that other like articles of dress are permitted. A school may not prohibit student expression solely because others might find it “offensive.”
Can students express their religious beliefs during class or in an assignment?
- While in class, students are free to express their religious views in a class discussion or as part of an assignment, so long as the expression is relevant to the subject under consideration and meets the requirements of the assignment.
Can students pray at school?
- Prayer is private speech that is protected by the Constitution. Thus, students may pray at school on their own or in groups during non-instructional time so long as it is not disruptive or coercive. This includes praying as a team before or after a game or practice, as long as it is completely voluntary, student-initiated, and student-led.
Do students have the right to form Christian clubs?
- If the school recognizes other non-curricular clubs, then it must also recognize a religious club, as long as the club is student-initiated and student-led. And the religious club must be given the same benefits and privileges given to other clubs, including posting flyers, making announcements, and being included in the yearbook.
Do students have the right to engage in religious expression during school-organized events such as a talent show?
- Yes, just as a student has the constitutional right to express his or her religious beliefs in a class assignment, he or she generally has the right to do so at a school talent show. This is especially true when the selection of the talent belongs entirely to the student and participation in the talent show is completely voluntary. Because the talent is the student’s personal expression, and not that of the school, it is subject to full protection under the First Amendment. Therefore, students can sing and dance to religious songs and perform instrumental religious music.
Students Don’t Need to Leave Their Faith at Home
Students have the right to freely live out their faith at school. We have created the Student Rights Handbook to provide you with specific information you and your child need to know about religious freedom in public schools.