Education Related FAQ's

1. What are my parental rights when attempting to opt my child out of a class where I find the curriculum objectionable?

Answer: There is no absolute right to opt out. It is a fact-intensive determination. Your best chances are to briefly, but specifically, articulate the nature and basis of your objections to the teaching materials. You should specifically state that you object on moral and religious grounds because religious objectors are entitled to additional constitutional protection such as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In addition, to the extent you are able, you should go to a meeting prepared to offer an alternative to school officials that would teach the same basic ideas contained in the materials to which you are objecting. 

2. What are my parental rights when my child is subjected to psychological surveys or testing without my notification or consent?

Answer: Under the Protection of the Pupil Rights Amendment (Hatch Amendment) to the General Education Provisions Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1232h, as amended, and its regulations, all instructional materials used in connection with any survey, analysis or evaluation subject to these regulations must be made available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children. Additionally, under this law, written parental consent is required before any child is subjected to any federally-funded survey, analysis or evaluation revealing information concerning political affiliations, mental and psychological problems, sex behavior and attitudes, etc.

Under the Protection of the Pupil Rights Amendment (Hatch Amendment) to the General Education Provisions Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1232h, as amended, and its regulations, all instructional materials used in connection with any survey, analysis or evaluation subject to these regulations must be made available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children. Additionally, under this law, written parental consent is required before any child is subjected to any federally-funded survey, analysis or evaluation revealing information concerning political affiliations, mental and psychological problems, sex behavior and attitudes, etc.

3. Can the Ten Commandments be posted in the public schools?

Answer: The Supreme Court has determined in the matter of Stone v. Graham that the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools is unconstitutional. Therefore, any effort to do so is likely to meet with serious opposition and even legal action. While we believe this is an incorrect understanding of the Constitution, it is nevertheless where the Supreme Court stands on this issue. 

The Supreme Court has determined in the matter of that the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools is unconstitutional. Therefore, any effort to do so is likely to meet with serious opposition and even legal action. While we believe this is an incorrect understanding of the Constitution, it is nevertheless where the Supreme Court stands on this issue.

Despite that ruling, the AFA believes it may be constitutional to post the Ten Commandments, provided it is done in the right way and in a setting emphasizing historical documents that set forth the principles upon which our nation was founded. AFA suggests including the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Gettysburg Address, and such other documents (e.g., writings of the founders and other statesmen) as you deem suitable. Then, in such a context, we believe the constitutionality of the display could be defended.

4. Can Bible clubs meet on school property and can public school teachers participate as sponsors of such clubs?

Answer: Students wishing to study the Bible, of course, have the right to meet, after school, on school property, and conduct their activities just as other non-curricular groups are entitled to do. Board of Educ. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990). 

Students wishing to study the Bible, of course, have the right to meet, after school, on school property, and conduct their activities just as other non-curricular groups are entitled to do. , 496 U.S. 226 (1990).

Also, it is our opinion that participation by a teacher in a Bible study conducted by students does not violate the establishment clause. The school should communicate to the students, of course, that the views expressed by the teacher are his or her own private views and not the views of the school. It might also be advisable if the teacher echoes that sentiment, in order to minimize the chance of confusion of the teacher’s official capacity with his or her private capacity.

5. Have my parental rights and the rights of my child been violated by the school system when it presents sexually graphic and explicit pornographic materials to him or her in a school setting without my notification or authorization?

Answer: Certainly courts recognize fundamental constitutional rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit. However, it is far from settled in the law whether the school must obtain permission from the parents prior to discussing sensitive matters. Courts favorschools, giving them broad discretion to make those judgment calls. The best protection we can suggest is an express statutory prohibition on schools addressing sexual matters unless prior written consent has been obtained.

Certainly courts recognize fundamental constitutional rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit. However, it is far from settled in the law whether the school must obtain permission from the parents prior to discussing sensitive matters. Courts favorschools, giving them broad discretion to make those judgment calls. The best protection we can suggest is an express statutory prohibition on schools addressing sexual matters unless prior written consent has been obtained.

6. What can I do to prevent my child’s exposure to harmful content on the Internet in a public school setting?

Answer: You can urge your school board to take all action necessary to protect school children from the harms caused by unrestricted Internet access to pornography. Public schools and school libraries are different than public libraries.

You can urge your school board to take all action necessary to protect school children from the harms caused by unrestricted Internet access to pornography. Public schools and school libraries are different than public libraries.

7. Can religion be taught in the public schools?

Answer: In a statement of principles sent to the nation’s school superintendents by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, the Secretary’s Statement on Religious Expression, it specifies: "Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. All are permissible public school subjects. Religious symbols may be used as teaching aids when providing examples of religious or cultural heritage. Similarly, it is permissible to consider religious influences on art, music, literature, and social studies. Although public schools may teach about religious holidays, including their religious aspects, and may celebrate the secular aspects of holidays, schools may not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observance by students."

In a statement of principles sent to the nation’s school superintendents by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, the, it specifies: "Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach religion, including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. All are permissible public school subjects. Religious symbols may be used as teaching aids when providing examples of religious or cultural heritage. Similarly, it is permissible to consider religious influences on art, music, literature, and social studies. Although public schools may teach about religious holidays, including their religious aspects, and may celebrate the secular aspects of holidays, schools may not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observance by students."

8. What are students’ rights regarding wearing clothing with religious messages?

Answer: The United States Constitution prevents any representative of a public school from censoring religious messages on students’ clothing. According to the Secretary’s Statement on Religious Expression, "students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are allowed to display other comparable messages. Religious messages may not be singled out for suppression, but rather are subject to the same rules as generally applied to comparable messages. 

The United States Constitution prevents any representative of a public school from censoring religious messages on students’ clothing. According to the , "students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are allowed to display other comparable messages. Religious messages may not be singled out for suppression, but rather are subject to the same rules as generally applied to comparable messages.

9. What can I do when I find a book objectionable because of its content and it is on my child’s required reading list?

Answer: Seek out a reasonable alternative with regard to level of difficulty, etc. Voice your objection and ask for your student to be allowed to substitute the alternative book.

Seek out a reasonable alternative with regard to level of difficulty, etc. Voice your objection and ask for your student to be allowed to substitute the alternative book.

10. Can teachers and/or administrators lead their students in prayer?

Answer: No. The Supreme Court has ruled that any government-sponsored prayer in schools is unconstitutional because it interprets such activity as endorsement of religion. Only student-led, student-initiated prayer in the public school is permissible. Teachers cannot lead or engage in the religious activities of public school students.

No. The Supreme Court has ruled that any government-sponsored prayer in schools is unconstitutional because it interprets such activity as endorsement of religion. Only student-led, student-initiated prayer in the public school is permissible. Teachers cannot lead or engage in the religious activities of public school students.

11. Can teachers and/or administrators share their religious faith with their students?

Answer: The Secretary’s Statement on Religious Expression, states that teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the establishment clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students. It also prohibits teachers and administrators from discouraging activity because of its religious content, and from soliciting or encouraging antireligious activity. Therefore, they must maintain official neutrality regarding any and all religious activity.

The , states that teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the establishment clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students. It also prohibits teachers and administrators from discouraging activity because of its religious content, and from soliciting or encouraging antireligious activity. Therefore, they must maintain official neutrality regarding any and all religious activity.

12. Can graduation prayer and religious baccalaureate ceremonies be held in public school facilities?

Answer: The Secretary’s Statement on Religious Expression specifies that the Supreme Court has ruled in current decisions that school officials may not mandate or organize graduation prayer, nor organize religious baccalaureate ceremonies. It further states that schools are informed, if they generally open their facilities to private groups, they must make these facilities available on the same terms to organizers of privately sponsored religious baccalaureate services. Secretary Riley also advises schools that they may not extend preferential treatment to baccalaureate ceremonies and may in some instances be obliged to disclaim official endorsement of such ceremonies.

The specifies that the Supreme Court has ruled in current decisions that school officials may not mandate or organize graduation prayer, nor organize religious baccalaureate ceremoniesIt further states that schools are informed, if they generally open their facilities to private groups, they must make these facilities available on the same terms to organizers of privately sponsored religious baccalaureate services. Secretary Riley also advises schools that they may not extend preferential treatment to baccalaureate ceremonies and may in some instances be obliged to disclaim official endorsement of such ceremonies.

13. Can religious music be presented in public school concerts?

Answer: School concerts that present a variety of selections may include religious music. 

School concerts that present a variety of selections may include religious music.

14. Can students express their religious beliefs in their school assignments?

 Answer: The Secretary’s Statement on Religious Expression states: "Students may express their religious beliefs through their homework, art-work, and oral and written assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school."

The states: "Students may express their religious beliefs through their homework, art-work, and oral and written assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school."