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ERIC Number: ED308567
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Feb-13
Pages: 17
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Religious Holidays and the Public Schools.
Harkness, Donald E.
This speech describes one superintendent's attempt to resolve a community disagreement concerning Christmas concerts held at Manhasset, New York, elementary schools the previous December. The newly appointed superintendent formed a nine-member, blue-ribbon task force, headed by a liberal Catholic, to study existing school district policies and regulations, compare them with existing practice, and formulate appropriate changes. The task force was composed of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and other religious minorities in roughly the proportion reflected in the community. The task force met frequently; interviewed dozens of staff, students, and community residents; issued a survey; consulted law books; and became familiar with Supreme Court and state rulings on the issue. The group then issued a compromise policy, subsequently approved by the board of education, recommending that the joyous, festive nature of the Christmas/Chanukah season be preserved as much as possible. The policy recognizes the pluralistic nature of American religious beliefs from Colonial times to present and affirms the separation of church and state. The legal ramifications are further explained, followed by an interpretation of the law as applied to school district practice. To enhance educational experience for all students, the district will use the opportunity afforded by major holidays to foster understanding and mutual respect regarding race, culture, economic background, and religious beliefs or nonbeliefs. Policies governing recognition of lesser known holidays need to be worked out. Specific recommendations concerning music, decorations, and activities are outlined, and a historical context for the Manhasset conflict is provided. (MLH)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A