What is the Policy on Cultural Diversity and Religion?
The Policy on Cultural Diversity and Religion is a written description of the broad parameters within which the Williamsville Central School District will approach topics involving teaching about religion and cultures in our public schools. We hope to create an environment where students of various cultural and religious backgrounds feel comfortable and accepted in our schools.
Board of Education Policy #8360: RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN THE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM
Can our teachers talk about religion?
Not only do our teachers have a right to talk about religion, but they have an obligation to teach about different religious and cultural groups within the framework of the New York State and Williamsville Central School District curriculum. Students are provided with opportunities to learn about cultural and religious traditions in our community and the world.
Information about religious and cultural holidays and traditions focusing on how and when they are celebrated, their origins and histories, are infused in our present curricular areas. Religious music and art are used to teach concepts, to convey historical and cultural content, and to create aesthetic experiences in a setting which emphasizes artistic expression and educational value.
Will my child be learning about religion?
Yes, there is a kindergarten through grade twelve curriculum that infuses the study of religion and cultures in social studies. When appropriate, religious topics may arise in other areas such as art and music.
Can our teachers display religious artifacts in school?
Yes, teachers are encouraged, while teaching about a religion, to display artifacts that help explain or clarify religious concepts and traditions that are included as part of a curriculum unit. The use of these artifacts or displays should provide an environment wherein students of all faiths and backgrounds can participate without betraying their own beliefs.
How do we determine what holidays are recognized by having time off from school?
The Board of Education annually approves the school calendar. Consideration of the religious and cultural demographics in our community help to determine which days our schools will be in session.
What is prohibited in the policy? Why?
The district prohibits the promotion of the study of one religion over another. It also prohibits proselytization. These prohibitions are the result of court decisions stating that we can teach about religion but may not sponsor religious practices. They also state that we can recognize religious holidays if the purpose is to provide secular instruction about religious traditions rather than promote a particular religion.
What about prayer in the schools?
Students have a right to pray individually or in groups as long as they are not disruptive to the school day. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate.
How has the policy affected musical performances?
Musical programs prepared for or presented by student groups as an outcome of the instructional program may include religious music. However, a religious theme or religious holiday celebration should not be the focus of the program.
In what other ways can students express their religious faith within public schools?
Individual student initiated expressions in response to any given project may take the form of religious writing, musical compositions, or artwork. These creations will be guided, evaluated, and displayed by the teacher in the same manner as any other student product. The wearing of religious symbols by a student is also a protected expression of faith.
If you have any additional questions regarding our Cultural Diversity and Religion Policy, please contact the Communications Office at 626-8008 or Karen Greco, Instructional Specialist, at 626-8033.