A partnership between a faith-based organization and a public school can bring many benefits and feelings of accomplishment to both parties. However, this relationship must be handled with great care in order to stay within the parameters of what the law says can or cannot be done.
The following points are adapted from “Public Schools and Religious Communities: A First Amendment Guide,” published by the American Jewish Congress, Christian Legal Society and the First Amendment Center. More detailed information is available at www.freedomforum.org.
All partnerships and partnership activities must remain secular.
School volunteers should be reminded that all conversation with students should remain secular.
Do not pray with students or encourage prayer.
Do not preach about faith while participating in a partnership activity.
Do not prohibit a student from speaking about religion.
Participation in programs is not limited to religious groups. Schools must be open to participation by all responsible community groups.
A student’s grades, class ranking or participation in school programs cannot be affected by the student’s willingness or unwillingness to participate in faith-based partnership activities.
A student’s religious beliefs will not prohibit that student from being part of a faith-based partnership activity.
Partnership activities conducted at a faith-based facility may be done so in rooms with religious icons or symbols. However, rooms cannot display any proselytizing materials.
Space leased by a school from a faith-based organization and used for instructional purposes must be free of religious symbols.
Faith/school partnerships should be detailed in writing.