Student Expression of Religious Viewpoints
The District shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the District treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and shall not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
Limited Public Forum
The District hereby creates a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak. Student expression on an otherwise permissible subject may not be excluded from the limited public forum because the subject is expressed from a religious viewpoint.
This policy shall not create a limited public forum when a student delivers the content of a message, announcement, introduction, or report that school employees or officials have directed, scripted, or approved in advance.
Within the limited public forum provided by this policy, a student speaker shall not engage in speech that:
Is obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent;
Creates reasonable cause to believe that the speech would result in material and substantial interference with school activities or the rights of others;
Promotes illegal drug use;
Violates the intellectual property rights, privacy rights, or other rights of another person;
Contains defamatory statements about public figures or others; or
Advocates imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.
Time Limits and Subject Matter
For each speaker, the District shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion. Each speaker shall stay on subject appropriate to the occasion.
No student shall be eligible to speak in a limited public forum if that student is suspended, expelled, or placed in an in-school suspension program.
High School Graduation Ceremonies
Student speakers at graduation ceremonies shall be the valedictorian and salutatorian of the senior class, selected by neutral criteria according to Board policy, and a graduating senior class representative selected by the senior class members, either in student elections or through some other neutral criteria. In the event of illness, incapacity, or unavailability that results in an open speaking slot, the administration shall select a senior class member or community member to fill the slot based upon neutral criteria.
Content of Remarks
The topic of the opening and closing remarks shall be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony and to the purpose of marking the opening and closing of the event; honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance; bringing the audience to order; and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event.
The respective addresses of the valedictorian and salutatorian shall be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony; marking and honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance; and the student's perspective on purpose, achievement, life, school, graduation, and looking forward to the future.
A written disclaimer shall be printed in the graduation program that states, "The students who shall be speaking at the graduation ceremony were selected based on neutral criteria to deliver messages of the students' own choices, and the students' speech does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the District."
Other School Events
Certain students may attain or achieve special positions based upon neutral criteria and may be provided with an opportunity to publicly state a voluntary expression at designated times during specific school events, or may have an opportunity to voluntarily participate in competitive events and choose to compete with verbal or musical expression. These events, and the neutral criteria for selection, are set forth below.
High School Pep Rallies
Student speakers at high school pep rallies shall consist of a senior class officer or representative, or, in his or her absence, another senior class member, selected by the senior class members either in student elections or through some other neutral criteria. Team captains selected by team vote or senior players selected by the head coach based upon nondiscriminatory factors including but not limited to character, leadership, and team participation and achievement, shall also be eligible for a speaking role. The subject of a student's speech shall be related to the purpose of the upcoming game; honoring the occasion and motivating the participants and those in attendance; and focusing the audience on school spirit and the purpose of the event.
Banquets and Ceremonies
Student speakers shall consist of members of the organization, team, or club, selected by the organization's sponsor or coach based upon nondiscriminatory factors including but not limited to character, leadership, seniority, participation, and achievement.
Talent Shows and Exhibition Events
For students who volunteer to participate in talent shows or exhibition events and choose to compete with verbal or musical expression based on religious content, the District shall not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student. Finalists shall be selected based upon neutral, non-discriminatory factors including but not limited to performance and ability. A student shall not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of his or her performance.
For as long as there is a need to dispel confusion over the fact that the District does not sponsor a student's private expression, when a student speaks in a limited public forum, a disclaimer shall be stated in written or oral form, or both, such as, "The student's speech does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the District."
Model Policy Clarification
The model policy contained in H.B. 3678, codified in Chapter 25, Subchapter E of the Texas Education Code, includes language that states "student speakers shall introduce…football games" and "opening announcements and greetings for the school day." However, the text of the law does not contain this language, the law does not mandate adoption of the model policy, and therefore this policy does not create any other limited public forum except as specifically set forth in this policy.
Religious Expression in Class Assignments
A student may express his or her beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the student's submission. Homework and classroom work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the District. A student shall not be penalized or rewarded because of the religious content of his or her work.
Freedom to Organize Religious Groups and Activities
Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings, and other religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. [See FNAB] Religious groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups, without discrimination based on the religious content of the group's expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce the groups' meetings, the District shall not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech. The District may disclaim sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or other religious speech.