Optional subjects include music, arts, physical education, and health. Private school students may select subjects from a wider curriculum including religious instruction in the dogma of their choice. However, the scores obtained by students in the NEAT were not used as a basis for their admission into Secondary school. Students from both public and private elementary schools take this exam to measure a school's competency. As of , only private schools have entrance examinations for Secondary school. Middle school education is a part of Primary or Elementary Education.
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Conflicts over religion in school are hardly new. In the 19th century, Protestants and Catholics frequently fought over Bible reading and prayer in public schools.
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The disputes then were over which Bible and which prayers were appropriate to use in the classroom. In , fighting broke out between Protestants and Catholics in Philadelphia; a number of people died in the violence and several Catholic churches were burned. Similar conflicts erupted during the s in Boston and other parts of New England. The Legal Status of Religious Organizations in Civil Lawsuits March Are legal disputes involving churches and other religious institutions constitutionally different from those involving their secular counterparts, and if so, how?
Free Exercise and the Legislative and Executive Branches October A look at state and federal statutes that protect religious freedom. Religious Displays and the Courts June Government displays of religious symbols have sparked fierce battles. Clauson , the court upheld an arrangement by which public schools excused students during the school day so they could attend religious classes away from school property. The new Pew Research Center survey finds that one-in-ten religiously affiliated teens in public school leave the school for religious activities.
Beginning in the s, the court handed religious conservatives a series of major defeats. It began with the landmark ruling, Engel v.
Since then, the Supreme Court has pushed forward, from banning organized Bible reading for religious and moral instruction in to prohibiting school-sponsored prayers at high school football games in In these and other decisions, the court has repeatedly stressed that the Constitution prohibits public schools from indoctrinating children in religion.
But it is not always easy to determine exactly what constitutes indoctrination or school sponsorship of religious activities. For example, can a class on the Bible as literature be taught without a bias for or against the idea that the Bible is religious truth?
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Can students be compelled to participate in a Christmas-themed music program? Sometimes students themselves, rather than teachers, administrators or coaches, bring faith into school activities. For instance, when a student invokes gratitude to God in a valedictory address, or a high school football player offers a prayer in a huddle, is the school legally responsible for their religious expression?
The issues are complicated by other constitutional guarantees.
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For instance, the First Amendment also protects freedom of speech and freedom of association. Religious groups have cited those guarantees in support of student religious speech and in efforts to obtain school sponsorship and resources for student religious clubs. The right of a student or student club to engage in religious speech or activities on school property may, however, conflict with other protections, such as the right of students to avoid harassment.
Because the student had graduated by the time the Supreme Court granted his appeal, the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to vacate its ruling and dismiss the case. In one of these cases, the Supreme Court ruled against CLS, stating that these nondiscrimination policies were constitutional so long as they were viewpoint neutral and fairly applied to all groups seeking recognition on campus. As these more recent controversies show, public schools remain a battlefield where the religious interests of parents, students, administrators and teachers often clash.
The conflicts affect many aspects of public education, including classroom curricula, high school football games, student clubs, graduation ceremonies. The most enduring and controversial issue related to school-sponsored religious activities is classroom prayer.
In banning the prayer exercise entirely, the court did not rest its opinion on the grounds that unwilling students were coerced to pray; that would come much later. Rather, the court emphasized what it saw as the wrongs of having the government create and sponsor a religious activity. Schempp , the court ruled broadly that school sponsorship of religious exercises violates the Constitution.
In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace
Schempp became the source of the enduring constitutional doctrine that all government action must have a predominantly secular purpose — a requirement that, according to the court, the Bible-reading exercise clearly could not satisfy. Perry , the U. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a Texas law mandating a moment of silence because it determined that, in passing the law, the state legislature had sufficiently articulated a secular purpose.
But while courts have given states some latitude in crafting moment of silence statutes, they have shown much less deference to laws or policies that involve actual prayer. The case effectively outlawed a practice that was customary in many communities across the country, thus fueling the conservative critique that the Supreme Court was inhospitable to public expressions of faith.
So far, lower appellate courts have not extended the principles of the school prayer decisions to university commencements Chaudhuri v. Tennessee, 6th U. Circuit Court of Appeals, ; Tanford v. Brand, 7th Circuit, The 4th Circuit, however, found unconstitutional the practice of daily prayer at supper at the Virginia Military Institute. In that case, Mellen v. The decision was similar to an earlier ruling by the U. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found unconstitutional a policy of the U. Laird, Most recently, in , the Supreme Court declined to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the firing of a football coach at a public high school for praying on the field with his players after games.
However, in a statement accompanying the denial of review, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. In , Michael Newdow filed suit challenging the phrase on behalf of his daughter, a public school student in California. Newdow , reached the Supreme Court in , but the justices did not ultimately decide whether the phrase was acceptable. Instead, the court ruled that Newdow lacked standing to bring the suit because he did not have legal custody of his daughter. While the issue never reached the Supreme Court again, it continued to be litigated in the lower courts.
In Myers v. Loudoun County Public Schools , the 4th U. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld recitation of the pledge in Virginia, but a U. However, the 9th U. Circuit Court of Appeals in reversed the district court decision, ruling that the recitation of the pledge did not constitute an establishment of religion. The courts have drawn a sharp distinction between officially sponsored religious speech, such as a benediction by an invited clergyman at a commencement ceremony, and private religious speech by students. The Supreme Court made clear in Lee v.
Judges usually reach that same conclusion when school officials cooperate with students to produce student-delivered religious messages. But federal courts are more divided in cases involving students acting on their own to include a religious sentiment or prayer at a school commencement or a similar activity. Some courts, particularly in the South, have upheld the constitutionality of student-initiated religious speech, emphasizing the private origins of this kind of religious expression. As long as school officials did not encourage or explicitly approve the contents, those courts have upheld religious content in student commencement speeches.
In Adler v. Duval County School Board , for example, the 11th U. Circuit Court of Appeals approved a system at a Florida high school in which the senior class, acting independently of school officials, selected a class member to deliver a commencement address. School officials neither influenced the choice of speaker nor screened the speech. Under those circumstances, the appeals court ruled that the school was not responsible for the religious content of the address.
Other courts, however, have invalidated school policies that permit student speakers to include religious sentiments in graduation addresses.
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One leading case is ACLU v. The 3rd U. Circuit Court of Appeals nevertheless ruled that the high school could not permit religious content in the commencement speech. The court reasoned that students attending the graduation ceremony were as coerced to acquiesce in a student-led prayer as they would be if the prayer were offered by a member of the clergy, the practice forbidden by Weisman in Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Similarly, in Bannon v. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida school officials were right to order the removal of student-created religious messages and symbols from a school beautification project.
Courts have long grappled with attempts by school boards and other official bodies to change the curriculum in ways that directly promote or denigrate a particular religious tradition. Opponents favor teaching some form of creationism, the idea that life came about as described in the biblical book of Genesis or evolved under the guidance of a supreme being.
A recent alternative to Darwinism, intelligent design, asserts that life is too complex to have arisen without divine intervention. Lower courts consistently have followed the lead of Epperson and Edwards.
As a result, school boards have lost virtually every fight over curriculum changes designed to challenge evolution, including disclaimers in biology textbooks. One of the most recent and notable of these cases, Kitzmiller v. After lengthy testimony from both proponents and opponents of intelligent design, a federal district court in Pennsylvania concluded that the policy violates the Establishment Clause because intelligent design is a religious, rather than scientific, theory. Kitzmiller may have been the last major evolution case to make national headlines, but the debate over how to teach about the origins and development of life in public schools has continued in state legislatures, boards of education and other public bodies.
Courts have also expended substantial time and energy considering public school programs that involve Bible study. Although the Supreme Court has occasionally referred to the permissibility of teaching the Bible as literature, some school districts have instituted Bible study programs that courts have found unconstitutional. Frequently, judges have concluded that these courses are thinly disguised efforts to teach a particular understanding of the New Testament.
In a number of these cases, school districts have brought in outside groups to run the Bible study program.
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