EQUAL ACCESS ACT
Because TSBVI’s secondary program receives federal financial assistance and has a limited open forum, see below, the School shall not deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings. 20 U.S.C. 4071(a)
ESTABLISHMENT OF LIMITED OPEN FORUM
For purposes of the Equal Access Act, the Board establishes a limited open forum for students attending the School’s secondary programs. The School’s secondary programs shall offer an opportunity for non-curriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during non-instructional time. 20 U.S.C. 4071 (b)
The Principal shall set aside non-instructional time before or after actual classroom instruction for meetings of non-curriculum related student groups. 20 U.S.C. 4072
Students wishing to meet on school premises shall file a written request with the Principal. The request shall contain a brief statement of the group’s purposes and goals, a list of the group’s members, and a schedule of its proposed meeting times. Requests shall be approved by the Principal subject to availability of suitable meeting space and without regard to the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech likely to be associated with the group’s meetings. Notices of meetings may be posted in a manner determined by the Principal.
STAFF PARTICIPATION PROHIBITED
School personnel shall not promote, lead, or participate in the meetings of non-curriculum related student groups. The Principal may assign staff to monitor student meetings, as needed, and may establish reasonable written guidelines for the conduct of meetings to maintain order and discipline, protect the well-being of students and faculty, and ensure that student attendance is voluntary. 20 U.S.C. 4071 (f)
Failure of a non-curriculum related student group to comply with applicable rules may result in loss of the right to meet on school premises. The Principal shall report rule violations to the Superintendent.
Depending upon the seriousness of any rule violations, the Principal may suspend a non-curriculum related student group’s right to meet on school premises for the balance of the school year or some lesser time period. If a determination to suspend a group occurs during the last reporting period of the school year, the suspension may extend through the end of the first semester of the next school year. Suspensions or warnings imposed by the Principal may be appealed to the Board in accordance with FNG.
“Meeting” includes those activities of student groups that are permitted under a school’s limited open forum and that are not directly related to the school curriculum.
“Non-instructional time” means time set aside by the school before actual classroom instruction begins or after actual classroom instruction ends.
20 U.S.C. 4072
“Non-curriculum related student group” means any student group that does not directly relate to the body of courses offered by the school. A student group directly relates to the school’s curriculum if it meets any of the following criteria:
- The subject matter of the group is actually taught or will soon be taught in a regularly offered course.
- The subject matter of the group concerns the body of courses as a whole.
- Participation in the group is required for a particular course.
- Participation in the group results in academic credit.
Westside Cmty. Sch. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
“Sponsorship” includes the act of promoting, leading, and participating in a meeting. The assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to a meeting for custodial purposes does not constitute sponsorship of a meeting. 20 U.S.C. 4071 (c)
FAIR OPPORTUNITY TO CONDUCT MEETINGS
The School shall be deemed to offer a fair opportunity for students to conduct meetings within its forum if it uniformly provides that:
- The meeting is voluntary and student-initiated.
- There is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school or any government or its agents or employees.
- School employees are present at religious meetings only in a non-participatory capacity.
- The meeting does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.
- Non-school persons shall not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.
20 U.S.C. 4071(c)
The School is not permitted to:
- Influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity.
- Require any person to participate in prayer or other religious activity.
- Expend public funds beyond the incidental cost of providing the space for student-initiated meetings.
- Compel any School employee to attend a meeting if the content of the speech at the meeting is contrary to the beliefs of the employee.
- Sanction meetings that are otherwise unlawful.
- Limit the rights of groups of students that are not of a specified numerical size.
- Abridge the constitutional rights of any person.
20 U.S.C. 4071(d)
Religious groups and activities
Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, “see you at the pole” gatherings, or other religious gatherings before, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other non-curricular student activities and groups. Religious groups must be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other non-curricular groups without discrimination based on the religious content of the students’ expression.
If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce meetings of the groups, TSBVI may not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech.
TSBVI may disclaim School sponsorship of non-curricular groups and events in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or religious speech.
Education Code 25.154
[For information on student expression of religious viewpoints, see FNA]