TITLE: RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY
MOON AREA OBSERVANCE
SCHOOL DISTRICT ADOPTED: June 20, 1995
131. RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY OBSERVANCE
1. Purpose It is the intent of the school district to implement a holiday observance policy
reflecting our rich religious diversity consistent with the guidelines of the
Constitution. The district also recognizes that the schools are a reflection of the
community it serves. Traditions are a cherished part of community life, and the
district has an interest in maintaining traditions which have significance to the
It is important for the school district to be alert to the distinction between teaching
about religious holidays, which is permissible, and celebrating religious holidays,
which is not. Recognition about holidays may focus on how and when they are
celebrated, their origins, histories and the meanings behind them. A teacher's
approach towards teaching the subject should be objective.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse,
prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs. Therefore, the school district
may teach about religious practices; however, it cannot sponsor religious practices.
In addition, the school district may clearly recognize the cultural aspects of religious
holidays but it may not celebrate them as a religious practice.
2. Guidelines To help clarify the distinction between teaching religion and celebrating religion:
1. The school's approach to religion is academic.
2. The school may strive for student awareness of religions but must avoid pressing
the student to accept any one religion, all religions or no religion.
3. The school may sponsor study about religion and associated practices but may
not sponsor the practice of religion.
4. The school may expose students to a diversity of religions or views but may not
impose any particular view.
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131. RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY OBSERVANCE - Pg. 2
5. The school may educate about all religions but may not denigrate or promote any
6. The school may inform the student about various beliefs but should not seek to
conform him/her to any particular belief.
Teaching About Religion and Religious Freedoms
Factual and objective teaching should be based on educational goals and afforded an
amount of time proportional to these goals.
Cultural programs that focus on the role played by religion in history are generally
acceptable and desirable in a multiethnic society.
Programs that educate students about the principle of religious liberty as one of the
central elements of freedom and democracy in America should be encouraged.
Observance, Acknowledgment and Celebration of Holidays
Religious holidays may be acknowledged and observed in the schools but not
Acknowledgment means to recognize the existence of the holiday.
Observance is identified as an act of respectful attention to the holiday as a custom.
Celebration is defined as school sponsored prayer, worship, glorification or ritual
related to a holiday.
The school district shall not inhibit student expressions of celebration that reflect
their religious beliefs.
The use of symbols such as a cross, menorah, crescent, crèche, angels, decorated
Christmas tree, Star of David, symbols of Native American religions, and other
symbols that are part of a religious holiday are permitted as a teaching aid or
resource. One of each symbol may be displayed temporarily in a prominent location
of each building for instructional purposes as an example of the cultural and
religious heritage of the holiday observance of it. A written explanation of the
significance of the holiday should accompany the symbols.
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Teachers may use religious symbols in the classroom for instructional purposes, but
they may not be displayed. The following secular symbols may be displayed in
classrooms and/or hallways for Hanukkah or Christmas provided the displays are
prudent: dreidels, bells, stars, holly, wreathes, lights, reindeer, Santa Claus, and Mrs.
Claus. Doors may be decorated with any of these symbols or others of a nonreligious
Art work, essays or reports depicting religious symbols created by students shall not
be restricted from display in classrooms, doors or hallways.
Music, Art, Literature and Drama
Music, art, literature, and drama having religious contents are permitted as part of
the curriculum for school sponsored activities and programs if presented in an
objective manner and as a traditional part of the particular holiday. If a program of
music education for young people is to be stimulating, meaningful and successful, it
must include a broad variety of music of significant quality.
The teacher is permitted to offer sacred and secular music in the classroom and in
programs for public concerts representing diverse cultures; however, the selection of
music must be based on its musical merit and on its ability to develop musical
understanding, growth and appreciation in young people. A good piece of music
should not be excluded because of its ethnic or religious origin. Christmas carols and
Hanukkah selections are appropriate in their cultural context but should not
dominate a music program.
In recognition of holiday traditions, music and other programs which may
predominately be of a religious nature and represent one particular culture may be
presented at times other than regular school hours and not as part of a regular school
concert or musical program. Such programs may be organized with the assistance of
the PTA/PTO groups or other community groups who have an interest in planning
the programs. Attendance at such programs will be voluntary for parents, students,
The district's calendar should be prepared to reduce conflicts with major religious
holidays of all faiths as much as possible.
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Teachers are not to administer major examinations the day of or day after a religious
holiday. It is conceivable that family as well as religious activities could preclude a
large number of students from being prepared to take an examination on the day of
return following a religious holiday. The district shall annually send a letter to
parents alerting them of this policy and request any exemptions from examinations
based upon the religious holiday they wish to have their child observe which
conflicts with the school calendar.
School Attendance on Religious Holidays
Title 22 A student's absence from school on a religious holiday must be recognized as an
Sec. 11.21 excused absence, without a penalty. The scheduling of assemblies, field trips,
graduation exercises and other special events, including school-related programs for
parents such as Open House or PTA/PTO meetings should be avoided during
religious holidays. A student missing school/class for religious holidays with
permission of his/her parent or guardian shall be considered present with respect to
records, perfect attendance, awards and grades.
Clergy, Churches, Synagogues and the Schools
Clergy may be invited into the schools as a resource when teaching about religion or
Churches, synagogues and/or clergy members representing families of the Moon
Area School District may sponsor after-school activities for students and parents.
Announcements of such activities may be posted in the schools with permission of
the principal as long as all students are invited to participate and that the activities
are not conducted for the purpose of proselytizing (recruiting or converting).
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