Religion in Schools
As the principal of a small town school, Oak Middle School (a public school housing grades 6-8), you have been approached by an organization named “Professional Athletes Against Drug Abuse.” This group has offered to send well known professional athletes to your school to give an assembly encouraging students to be “drug free.” A day before the assembly, you receive a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) telling you that this group’s main goal is to convert children to Christianity. You immediately contact “Professional Athletes Against Drug Abuse” to express your concern; they assure you that their goal is strictly to urge students to remain drug free. You accept their explanation and allow the assembly to take place. When the assembly begins, it quickly becomes apparent that you have been duped and that the ACLU letter was right. The professional athlete speaking to the students encourages them to turn away from drugs and to turn to Jesus. During the assembly students receive a very strong evangelical message and are strongly encouraged to meet with the professional athlete again that evening at a local church to be “born again.” You were understandably very upset, but you allow the assembly to continue to its conclusion.
Please respond to the following questions:
- What should you do after the assembly?
- Do you personally or the school district have any legal liability due to allowing this assembly?
- How does the Lemon Test apply to this circumstance?
- How does the principle of government neutrality apply in this case?
- Are there any circumstances under which this assembly or one like it could have been held on public school property?
- Have you created an open forum?
- Explain the legal principles behind your decision-making process.