The Sampson County Board of Education and other school officials are in the process of making minor changes to a policy regrading religion in schools.
If approved, the change would include wording about the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and instructions about checking with the board’s attorney before religious activities. Dr. Wendy Cabral, assistant superintendent for personnel services, reported that the North Carolina School Board Association recommended a revision to the policy.
During a Monday meeting, Board member Faye Gaye made a request to table the approval of the revision in order to ask more questions in the future.
“It’s probably a good idea to review this to make sure we’re all on board,” said Chairman Dewain Sinclair.
According to Policy Code: 3515, The United State Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution protects the right of an individual’s religious beliefs or not to have beliefs at all.
“It is the board’s policy to comply with federal and state law regarding religion and religious expression in the schools,” the policy states. “The board will neither advance nor inhibit any religion or religious belief, viewpoint, expression, or practice. It is also the policy of the board to support, within the framework of the United States Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution, the free, private exercise of individual religious beliefs by students and school employees. The board will not prevent, or otherwise deny participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in the system’s schools, consistent with guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and applicable judicial decisions interpreting the religion clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This policy supersedes any other board policy that is inconsistent with it.”
It also states school employees are expected to show respect for the beliefs of students and employees. In addition, school programs and activities should be designed to foster understanding, appreciation, and respect for the diverse beliefs of people in schools.
Another section of the policy mentions how the principal is responsible to contact the superintendent for events or programs. Next, the superintendent or other designee should contact the board’s attorney to research legal standards regarding a proposed activity.
Cabral said the state’s school board association sends policy updates about three times a year, based on legislative actions and issues.
“This is what we got in the packet last time,” Cabral said about updates regarding the boards approval. “They reviewed revisions for like 23 other policies.”
After the unanimous vote, there was no further discussion regarding the policy. Before the next board member, the information will be reviewed by the board’s legal counsel.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.