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Running Head: Religion and Public Schools 1

Artifact #6: Religion and Public Schools

Rosario Hernandez

College of Southern Nevada


Religion and Public Schools 2

Abstract

Religion has been and will continue to be one of the biggest controversies amongst

American Culture. Most importantly, whether or not it should be a part of the public education

system is a greater concern for many people. When it comes down to religion it is much like

walking on very thin ice, because voicing personal opinions on to the public is not always

beneficial towards one’s reputation. Karen White is a kindergarten teacher at a public school,

who recently became affiliated with the Jehovah's Witnesses, which has affected her career. Ms.

White decided to inform the parents of her students about the sudden change in her life through a

letter. The letter stated that her new lifestyle affected her participation of certain tasks like

signing “Happy Birthday,” saying the pledge of allegiance, and even teaching or decorating for

certain holidays. Bill Ward, the principle of her school, decided to dismiss Ms. White due for

parent protests and her ineffectiveness of meeting the needs of her students. Artifact number six

will discuss the viewpoints of Ms. White’s situation.


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Atrifact #6: Religion and Public Schools

There has always been a conflict with the mentioning of religion and public education.

Many believe it should be taught, while others oppose to it. Ms. Karen White has been a victim

of religion and her personal life choice. Having to choose between personal life and career life

should not be two separate options, if anything it should be one in the same because it is a part of

one individual. Ms. White was righteously recommended for her dismissal. According to the

First Amendment (The Establishment Clause) states that the public school district has a neutral

standing when it comes down to religion in education. Also, The Establishment Clause states that

religion should be kept out of public education, in other words no exception. Due to Ms. White’s

new affiliation with the Jehovah's Witnesses, she has made it very well known, in her letter that

she would keep religion out of her classroom and her students would not be affected with that

cultural education. Religion should only be present in a public education setting when it has a

historical or cultural purpose, and not when it is for affiliation.

In the landmark case of ​West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette​ of 1943, The

Supreme Court ruled that students could not be punished or considered insubordinate because

they did not salute the flag. If this case was applied to Ms. White’s case, she could not have been

dismissed because the pledge of allegiance had been optional for students since the beginning.

By her decision to not allow herself to participate in reciting the pledge did not take anything

away from her students. If they wanted to continue to recite it, she was placing no limitations on

their student rights. The moment Ms. White would have placed an obstruction on the rights of

her students then she would of been able to have been dismissed. Since that was not the case,

Ms. White was not in the wrong under this landmark case.
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Under the​ No Child Left Behind Act​ (NCLB) of 2001, there is a section dedicated to

religious prayer in schools regarding the students, teachers and faculty members rights when

practicing on school grounds. Teachers are not supposed to encourage or discourage prayer in a

school environment. Whether students want to participate in prayer or not should not be up to the

teacher. This also supports that White was still leaving it an option for the students to say the

pledge of allegiance in her class. The NCLB act states, ​“Similarly, teachers may participate in

their own personal captivates in privately sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies.” ​With that final

statement, it allows teachers to have their own personal religious beliefs and still be a part of the

public education system as long as the both do not mix. However, because she chose to make her

students parents aware of her new religious affiliation, and because her teaching would have to

adapt to the change, it could be considered a public practice. Therefore, Ms. White could be

righteously recommended for dismissal.

Shortly after White made her announcement of becoming a Jehovah's Witness, parents

protested against her teaching. With due process being put into effect, the courts would question

if Mr. Ward would have come to the same conclusion if she had not announced her new lifestyle

change. If Ward would have failed to prove that White was an ineffective teacher without the

defamation because of her religion, then again, she would have been recommended for dismissal

under unjust circumstances. On the other hand, if her announcement would have just added more

fuel to the fire of her poor teaching abilities- the possibility of her losing her job would have

increased and there would have been no unrighteous doing on the principal’s behalf.

In our current day and age, being a teacher is not a difficult career choice. There are

several laws that have been set in place to protect educators against possible public harassment
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or humiliation that in the past would have lead to the termination of employment. Religion is and

will always be a sensitive topic amongst all communities. It is like second nature for all of us to

be afraid of the unknown, and sometimes we can be ignorant instead of allowing us to open up to

new topics of knowledge. If it were up to me, I would not allow Ms. White to still be a part of

my school if she was allowing her personal life to affect what subjects, topics, and activities she

would choose to teach her students. To an extent, White is being negligent to the needs of her

students, especially since she is a kindergarten teacher. Kindergarteners are in a growing age that

need to be exposed to fun activities to facilitate their learning. By White’s decision to filter what

holidays were not going to be taught because of her religion was unfair to those students, and

their parents had a motive to begin protesting.


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Resources

Due Process and First Amendment. (2016). PPT. Professor Herington.

No Child Left Behind Act, Prayer in the Schools. (2001). Handout.

West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette. (1943). Retrieved Dec 6, 2016 from

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/319/624