The Wausau School District administration is providing this statement in light of recent reportsregarding District guidelines concerning the performance of religiously-themed Christmas musicat winter concerts and performances. In this regard, it should be noted at the outset that at notime has the District prohibited the use of religiously-themed Christmas music in winter concertsor directed teachers to eliminate such music from the curriculum. Rather, District administrationhas taken steps to help ensure that religiously-themed music is incorporated into the curriculumand performances in a manner that satisfies legal and educational requirements.This year, the District administration utilized an alternative process to apply its already-existingadministrative rule governing the use of religiously-themed music in the curriculum. Theadministrative rule dates to 2001, was reviewed in 2010, and is attached to this statement. This process reflects goals and policies included in Board Policy 5005, Statement of Principles, whichis provided along with this statement. In early September, as a part of this process, District legalcounsel recommended that the rule itself be updated.The primary purpose of this process is to ensure that all music classes and performancessponsored by the District are conducted in accordance with the law, and in a manner that showsrespect for the varied backgrounds and beliefs of all of our students and families. District legalcounsel presented an in-service to all music teachers on September 17, 2013, in whichconstitutional principles governing religion in the music curriculum were reviewed anddiscussed. A copy of the materials distributed at that meeting is provided along with thisstatement. Quoted in the material distributed to music teachers are U.S. Supreme Court caseswhich state, among other principles, that public school districts must remain neutral in matters of religion, may not take action to either advance or inhibit a particular religion, or religion ingeneral, and may not take action that would be understood to endorse a religion.
While the review of the District’s administrati
ve rule remains pending at this time, District legalcounsel has advised a committee, consisting of music teachers and administrators, in theapplication of constitutional requirements to proposals submitted by music teachers for music performances during the first academic semester. The committee completed its review of proposals for fall and winter concerts on September 26th. While modest changes were made insome proposals to help ensure that the District was not unconstitutionally endorsing the religiouscelebration of Christmas, winter performances continue to include selections with religiousthemes, which have been chosen based upon educational and musical considerations. Highschool winter concerts will include, for example, the Halleluiah Chorus and De Profundis-Psalm130. The committee has reviewed each proposal independently and in accordance with advice provided by legal counsel, not based upon any pre-set ratios or percentages.Late last week, the committee reviewed the proposal for the Wausau West Master Singers winter program. The director of the Master Singers
was invited to participate in the committee’s
discussion. The proposed Master Singers winter performances involve students performingseasonal songs and Christmas carols at approximately 15 locations in the greater Wausau area onvarious dates during the school day in December, under
the director’s supervision
. District legal