One recognized function of the Mountain Brook Board of Education and school system is to foster understanding and respect among students, parents, and staff members of all races, religious persuasions, ethnic groups, cultures and economic backgrounds. Accordingly, the school board shall encourage students and staff to appreciate and be tolerant of each other’s religious beliefs and non-beliefs. This spirit of tolerance shall extend to the school system’s holiday recognition which shall neither promote nor oppose any religious belief or non-belief.
All holiday recognition shall be in compliance with the guidelines set out by the United States Supreme Court as follows:
1. holiday recognition must have a secular purpose;
2. the primary effect of any holiday recognition must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and
3. holiday recognition must not foster an excessive entanglement between the school system and religion.
Nothing in this policy shall be interpreted to prohibit the school system’s acknowledgment of religion through holiday programs and activities which objectively teach about religion’s social, intellectual, and historical role in the development of civilization and, in particular, our society. Nor shall this policy be interpreted to limit the use in secular programs of religious music, art, literature, objects or symbols, so long as such use does not result in the promotion of religion. Seasonal and holiday traditions are a cherished and significant part of this community’s life and may be recognized in a non-devotional manner by the school system. Holiday programs with both a secular and religious content may be allowed if their effect neither inhibits nor advances religion; however, the school system shall not sponsor holiday programs for religious purposes.
As a practical matter, the school calendar shall minimize conflicts with religious holidays of all faiths so as to take account of the possible effects of such holidays on attendance. Individual students shall be excused from attendance on such dates as may be in conflict with the observance of their religious beliefs and shall not be penalized or deprived of makeup opportunities for such observances.
The overriding consideration in evaluating any position taken with regard to holiday recognition must be the welfare of the students. It is vital that holiday activities and programs be conducted in a prudent and objective manner, with sensitivity and respect for the religious beliefs and non-beliefs of all students, so that no child will be prejudiced or embarrassed on account of his or her religious, ethnic, or racial background.
Adopted: August 11, 1980