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Public Schools and Religion: What Parents Need to Know (page 2)

Public Schools and Religion: What Parents Need to Know

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Updated on Sep 24, 2009

"You risk a good deal of social ostracism in certain instances," Hudson said. "One thing, and not just with religious speech, but history if full of examples that the price of free speech and standing up for 1st amendment principles is often quite high."

So what should a parent do if they learn that their child's public school is promoting or endorsing religious activity? Mach and Hudson offered several suggestions.

  • Talk to your child. If mixing school and religion is something you feel strongly about, make sure you explain the issue. It's not just religions or practices that differ with your own, but the thought that some kids may feel like outsiders simply because they don't practice what appears to be the "accepted" religion at school. Tell your child to let you know if school officials seem to be promoting religion at public school.
  • Have a family discussion. After you get a report of an incident at school, be sure to include the entire family. "If the family decides this is just not right, hopefully they have someone within the school system whom they trust."
  • Talk to a trusted school official. That may be the principal or a teacher or perhaps a counselor at your child's school. Or, perhaps there's someone you know in the school district office.
  • If necessary, seek an outside agency. "The fear of intimidation keeps many families silent even in the face of egregious constitutional violations," Mach said." If a family has no place to turn within the school, they can contact public interest organizations, like the ACLU."

Hudson and Mach said they both hope high-profile cases like the one at Pace High School cause families around the country to think more about the issue.

"Hopefully, as these issues come to light, students, parents, and school officials will recognize that religious freedom thrives best when government stays out of it."

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