Updated Federal Guidance On Prayer In Public Schools

On January 16, 2020, the White House issued updated guidance on prayer in public schools.  The stated purpose of the guidance is to provide information on the current state of the law concerning religious expression in public schools and clarify the extent to which prayer in public schools is legally protected.

The guidance also addresses principles of religious liberty that relate to religious expression more broadly, including prayer, and is meant to advise schools on how to comply with governing constitutional and statutory law.  Finally, it addresses the Equal Access Act, which provides statutory protection for religious expression in public schools.  Specifically, the guidance covers the following topics:

  • Prayer during non-instructional time;
  • Organized prayer groups and activities;
  • Prayer by school personnel;
  • Moments of silence;
  • Accommodations;
  • Class assignments;
  • Student assemblies;
  • Graduation and Baccalaureate ceremonies;
  • Religious literature;
  • Student dress codes and policies; and
  • Religious excusals.

All school administrators should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and reach out to legal counsel if an issue arises that implicates student or employee religious freedoms. To view the full guidance document, you may access it here.

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