8360 R-- Instruction
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES REGULATIONS
This regulation is meant to serve as a strict guidance in the recognition of religious observances. It is not meant to be all inclusive, nor is it meant to be construed as an absolute interpretation or stipulation of all applicable laws and regulations. Mutual cooperation and respect still stand as the cornerstone of the appropriate application and administration of any policy or procedure. Pursuant to Board of Education Policy 5125,
It is the district’s intent and objective to be sensitive to the needs of all students and personnel. The district shall uphold all laws and regulations applicable to the observance of religious beliefs and values.
Where it is anticipated that a student or district personnel may be absent from class or work due to religious observances, the District shall maintain an effective balance between providing instruction and/or related work functions, while not adversely affecting those who are absent due to said religious observances.
The decisions of the district administration shall be in accordance with board of education policy and regulation 5125-R. The policy shall be distributed to all personnel and made available to community residents.
It shall be the practice of the
· Acknowledge the pluralism of religious beliefs and be conscious of and respect the sensitivity of others.
· Make reasonable accommodations for students and employees to meet their personal religious obligations
· Ensure that school personnel neither promote nor discourage religion in the schools or the practices of any specific religions on school premises
· Permit student-initiated religious expression to the same extent that it permits other student speech.
· Provide individual attention to specific requests for accommodations to meet religious obligations
Religious accommodation rules do not apply to requirements based on personal preferences rooted in non-theological bases such as culture, heritage or politics.
Request for Student Absence from School
The school/district shall strive to maintain an effective balance between providing instruction to students who attend classes while not adversely affecting those who are absent because of their religious beliefs.
· As with other school absences, parents/guardians are responsible for contacting the attendance officer if his/her child will be absent for the entire day or portion of a day for religious observances.
· A written request must be submitted at least a day in advance from the parent/guardian who want their child to leave school property for religious activities during the school day (s), or be absent for the entire day (s) for religious activities.
· Requests for absences for religious observances should generally be accommodated; however if the frequency or duration of absences would materially burden instruction, the principal may deny the request and subsequent absences would be considered unexcused.
· It is not appropriate for school personnel to question a student as to the nature of the religious activity.
· Schools may not allow religious instruction by outsiders on school premises during the school day.
· Students are allowed to leave school premises for religious instruction, and may return to ride their usual bus transportation home.
· Schools shall apply the usual sign out and sign in rules when students leave or return to the school building.
Test Schedules and Religious Observances
· Teachers and administrators shall consult the district calendar, which provides the days of religious observances, prior to scheduling classroom or district-wide tests, important class activities such as field trips, special or required out-of-class activities, presentations, and/or the introduction of new or critical lessons, in order to avoid possible conflicts.
· Efforts shall be made to choose a schedule for tests and makeup opportunities that are reasonable under the circumstances and maximize the number of students in attendance.
Make-up work & Homework
To ensure appropriate make-up of work and other instructional activities, while not unduly interfering with the religious observance, parents and/or students are expected to inform teachers of expected absences so that the most appropriate accommodations can be made.
· Students who are absent from school or class because of religious observances shall be allowed to make-up work any examination, study or work requirement which he/she missed because of such absence.
· Makeup examination(s) or work shall be provided as long as it does not create an unreasonable burden upon said school, class, students, or teacher.
· Students are responsible for making up the work or exams according to an agreed-upon schedule.
Schools have the discretion to excuse individual students from lessons that are objectionable to the student or the student’s parents/guardians on religious or other conscientious grounds. School personnel shall not encourage or discourage students from availing themselves of such religious exemption.
Student Requests for Accommodations for Prayer
School authorities possess substantial discretion to impose rules or other pedagogical restrictions on student activities, consistent with the student code of conduct, without discriminating against religious activity or speech.
Use of School Facilities by Student Prayer Group
Although the Equal Access Act applies only to our middle and high schools, other federal law extends these principles to our elementary schools. Under the 1984 Federal Equal Access Act, a secondary school that allows one or more non-curriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during non-instructional time may not deny equal access to or discriminate against students on the basis of religious, political, philosophical or other content of the speech at such meetings. Such a meeting, as defined and protected by the Equal Access Act, may include a prayer service, Bible reading, or other worship exercise.
Student groups meeting for prayer must comply with the following conditions, regardless of whether they are informal gatherings or student clubs:
· Meetings are voluntary and student initiated
· Groups are not sponsored by the school
· Employees or agents of the school are present at meetings of the student prayer groups only in a non-participatory capacity for supervision purposes only
· Meeting do not materially or substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school, and
· Non-school persons do not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of the student groups.
Teaching about Religion and the Expression of Beliefs in Student Work
Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but
they may teach about religion
using the Bible, Torah, Koran, or other scripture for lessons such as: the
history of religion, comparative religion, and the role of religion in the
history of the
Required Co-curricular Student Activities
Teachers and administrators for courses that require performance activities (e.g., band, theater arts, and chorus) shall consider accommodations for students who must miss some or all the rehearsals or performances because of religious obligations.
· School personnel shall consult the district calendar, which provides the days of religious observances, prior to the scheduling of rehearsals and performances, in order to avoid possible conflicts.
· Performance material shall be diverse in nature (song lyrics, drama themes, staging, etc.), designed to reflect the pluralism of religious beliefs and cultures.
· Upon request, students shall be excused from some or all the performance activity if the content conflicts with the student's religious beliefs.
· Students may not be penalized in their grades for meeting their religious obligations.
Extracurricular Activities/Interscholastic Sports
The purpose of extracurricular activities is to
offer all students opportunities to participate in educational and/or athletic
· School personnel shall consult the district calendar, which provides the days of religious observances, prior to the scheduling of practices or events, in order to avoid possible conflicts.
· School personnel and students leaders shall make every effort to not choose projects or activities that exclude or discourage students because of their religion beliefs.
· Students may form and attend religious clubs in the same manner as other student initiated clubs.
· Students may not be penalized for meeting their religious obligations.
School Level Perfect Attendance Awards
Because free exercise of religion is a Constitutional right, schools shall not withhold perfect attendance awards from students whose only absences have been excused for reasons of religion.
Requests for Student Placements
The school system will not honor requests for placement or non-placement of students into a class based on the teacher's race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability.
Student Clothing Associated with Religion
Students may wear clothing associated with their religion or containing a religious message as long as the clothing is consistent with established school guidelines.
· Conflicts between school guidelines and a student’s religious beliefs shall be reviewed on a case by case basis by the principal. For example, no-hat rules should be modified to allow religious head coverings.
· Clothing requirements for certain classes such as physical education may be adjusted in order to accommodate religious beliefs.
One of the purposes of decorations in a school or classroom is to temporarily display student work. Seasonal decorations with religious themes that are student initiated and produced as part of the instructional program are acceptable.
All presentations by outside speakers who are invited to address classes on subjects related to religion must be related to the instructional program of the class.
· Any material presented must be to educate, not to proselytize.
· Student speeches for graduation or similar events should be reviewed and approved by the principal in advance
EMPLOYEES RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE - FEDERAL STATUTE:
However, it is equally
clear that Title
· Federal law requires an employer to "reasonably accommodate" an employee's religious observances, practices and beliefs. However, an employer need not "reasonably accommodate" if the employer can show that accommodation would cause an "undue hardship" on business.
· What constitutes "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" depends on the facts in a particular situation. Regardless of whether an accommodation is ultimately possible, the employer bears the burden of showing that a serious attempt was made.
· Employers must attempt to accommodate employees who, for religious reasons, must maintain a particular physical appearance or manner of dress in keeping with the tenets of their religion. Again, accommodation is possible if it can be made without undue hardship to the employer.
· When it comes to religious apparel, typically only safety concerns constitute undue hardship.
It is the employee's responsibility at the time he or she is hired to alert the employer of religious observances which will affect job responsibilities.
· Questions concerning an applicant's religion or the religious holidays observed by an applicant are totally impermissible. For example, an employer may not ask an applicant: "Does your religion prevent you from working weekends or holidays?" or "What church do you attend?" However, during an interview an employer may describe the regular days, hours, or shifts of the job.
EMPLOYEES RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE --
· Employers must comply with the religious accommodation requests of their employees unless they can demonstrate, through bona fide efforts, that the accommodation would cause “undue hardship.”
· The employer must demonstrate the effect accommodation would have on the district, that is, the employer must prove the undue hardship.
· The employer is not mandated to provide the specific accommodation requested by the employee.
As long as the
employer has reasonably accommodated an employee's religious needs, the
employer need not consider the employee's alternative suggested accommodations
even if the employee's preferred accommodation would not cause undue hardship
to the employer. (
Definition of “Undue Hardship”:
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that an employer need not incur more than minimal costs in order to accommodate an employee's religious practices (Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977).
· For example, an employer probably does not have to train a part-time employee at substantial cost in order to cover for another employee who is unable to work on Saturdays.
· Also, if a collective bargaining agreement is in force which sets forth rules regarding seniority and assignments, it may be an undue hardship to ask the employer to violate that agreement.
Amendment to Section 296.10 of the
Executive Law (
(1) The identifiable cost of the accommodation, such as the loss of productivity and of retraining or hiring employees or transferring employees from one facility to another, in relation to the size or operating cost of the employer;
(2) The number of individuals requesting the particular accommodation; and
(3) The degree of geographic and administrative separateness or fiscal relationship for any employer with multiple facilities making the accommodation more difficult or expensive.
However, an accommodation will be deemed an “undue hardship” if it makes the employee unable to perform the essential job functions for which he or she was hired.
The employee cannot be unreasonable in demanding accommodation. Employees seeking to observe their religious beliefs and practices have a responsibility to do their part to help resolve conflicts between job duties and religious needs.
· An employee should tell his/her employer about the religious commitment at the time the job is accepted or immediately upon becoming observant if s/he becomes more observant while employed.
· Employees must be clear and specific when explaining why they need an accommodation. Vague reasons such as saying that s/he cannot work on a particular day because of cultural tradition will not suffice.
· The employee must clearly state that s/he is required not to work because of religious beliefs.
· Employees cannot be denied the use of paid leave, other than sick leave, for religious observances.
· Time off for religious observances that is not made up or charged to paid leave will be deemed unpaid leave.
Adjusted Work Schedule:
When deciding whether an employees request for an adjusted work schedule should be approved, a supervisor should not make any judgment about the employee’s religious beliefs or his or her affiliation with a religious organization.
· Employees shall submit a written request for an adjusted work schedule in advance.
· An employee shall specifically state that his or her request for an adjusted work schedule is for religious purposes and should provide acceptable documentation of the need to abstain from work.
· A supervisor may disapprove an employees request if modifications of an employees work schedule would interfere with the efficient accomplishment of the building’s or department’s mission.
Making up work:
The Amendment to Section 296.10 of the Executive Law (New York Human Rights Law) requires employers to accommodate employees’ requests for time off for religious observances by allowing them to make up an equivalent amount of time and work, whenever practicable, at some other mutually convenient time.
· Employees who work a different shift solely to accommodate their religious observances are not entitled to premium pay or benefits which may be available on that shift.
· However, the Amendment does not “alter or abridge the rights granted to an employee concerning the payment of wages or privileges of seniority accruing to that employee.”
· If an employees request is approved, a supervisor shall determine whether the alternative work hours will be scheduled before or after the religious observance.
· The overtime pay provisions of Title 5, United States Code, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, do not apply to employees who work different hours or days because of religious observances, even if an employee voluntarily works in excess of 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day for this purpose.
Contending with an issue of accommodation:
If an accommodation
issue arises and it is not easily resolved, the employee should discuss the
matter with his/her union representative, contact an attorney or contact the