Thursday, December 09, 2010

Oregon Gives School Boards Guidance On Teachers Wearing of Religious Clothing

Earlier this year, the Oregon legislature passed a law repealing an 87-year old ban on teachers wearing religious dress in the classroom. (See prior posting.)  Yesterday Oregon's State Labor Commissioner and its Superintendent of Public Instruction jointly announced the creation of a model policy for school districts to use in applying the new law in their schools. The new model policy (full text) allows schools to ban religious dress when it is intended as, or would be perceived as, school district endorsement of the teacher's religious beliefs or as indoctrination or proselytizing of students. In determining intent or perception, schools may consider:
i. The size and visibility of the item of religious clothing;
ii. The inclusion of any writing or symbols on the religious clothing that communicates a direct message;
iii. Any accompanying verbal statements or declarations of a religious nature that go beyond a limited explanation of the religious significance or obligation associated with the wearing of the religious clothing;
iv. The number of employees requesting, or wearing, the same or similar religious clothing in the school; and
v. The reasonableness of this perception should take into account the age, background and sophistication of the student, parent, or employee in the school who regularly encounters the employee.