Per Texas Education Law, Can My Child Pray in School?
Being able to pray is an important part of any religion. However, prayer in public schools has been an issue in many legal proceedings, especially recently. The establishment clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from establishing an official religion, thus preventing forced prayer in school. However, the freedom of expression allows individuals the opportunity to express their religious beliefs. These two conflicting ideals create a gray area around prayer in school. Texas education law, like many other states, defaults to the federal ruling on prayer and education in public schools.
Texas Education Law: Texas Code Educ. 25.901
Texas law states, “A public school student has an absolute right to individually, voluntarily, and silently pray or meditate in school in a manner that does not disrupt the instructional or other activities of the school. A person may not require, encourage, or coerce a student to engage in or refrain from such prayer or meditation during any school activity.”
This freedom of expression allows your child to pray in school as long as it does not disrupt their or anyone else’s education. Prayer, therefore, must be quiet and relatively still. As long as your child can stay at their desk or station and pray in their heads, they can do so during school as long as class is not active. They can also do this when they finish their solo assignments.
Many public Texas schools have groups of students that meet before, between, and after class for religious reasons. Your child can join one of these groups to participate in more active or vocal prayer during school. As long as the groups are meeting when class is not in session, they can pray out loud, stand, kneel, or move around as needed. Not only will your child be allowed to pray during this time, but they’ll also meet fellow students who share their ideals, making friends and lifelong connections.
Minute of Silence
Many schools choose to employ a ‘minute of silence’ policy. At a set time during the school day, usually near the beginning or end, students must participate in a minute of silence. This minute allows religious students the ability to pray unheeded, without worrying about missing something important in class or having to participate in a group activity. Many students find this a good compromise as they can practice private prayer without fear of missing out on their education.
Part of the First Amendment rights includes the right to not participate in prayer or religion. Regardless of a public school’s set-up, teachers, administrators, and other students cannot force any student to practice prayer. During a minute of silence, students who are not praying must maintain a quiet and peaceful atmosphere out of respect for those who are, but they are not themselves required to pray.
Private schools differ from public schools and aren’t held to the same legal standards since they aren’t a government operation. In fact, many private schools have religious affiliations. Such private schools typically integrate moments of prayer into their education and schedule. This allows students the opportunity to pray in a safe and educational environment.
Public schools cannot legally favor or disfavor one religion over another. During their education, however, students can receive schooling on the different types of religion in the world. This is an important part of many classes, especially history and public relations. Although students can learn about religions, educators cannot expressly teach one religion or force students to practice any religion.
Each school will have slightly different policies from the others. Although all public schools have to follow state and federal laws about education and religion, the way they work within those laws is different. Your child’s school should have a manual you can check to see what their specific rules on prayer in school are. They may employ a minute of silence, or they could set longer between-class times to allow religious groups to meet and pray. If you can’t find any specifics, you can call your child’s school for more information.
Get Answers to Your Questions about Texas Education Law
The right to pray in any public place is available to any student. Your child has the right to pray in school as long as they are quiet and nondisruptive. An educator, administrator, or other student cannot prevent your child from praying. This is as long as they are following the proper guidelines. If you have any questions about Texas education laws or if your child was wrongfully prevented from praying in school, contact Attorney Sarina Hager at (903) 466-0001.