From LISD:Student-Led Prayer will Continue During Graduation Ceremonies
This week, some media outlets distorted facts regarding student prayer during Lewisville Independent School District (LISD) graduation ceremonies. Due to some confusion, LISD would like to clarify that student-led prayer at graduation has always been allowed and will continue to be allowed in the future. Students giving opening and closing remarks as well as valedictorian and salutatorian addresses may choose to pray.
In 2007, the Texas legislature passed a law regarding student expression. All Texas school districts including LISD passed Board policies to implement the law. It established the right for voluntary student expression for certain campus events including gradation. “Student expression” includes the right to pray. The policies (FNA local, FNA legal and FMH legal) are listed below. All three communicate the right of religious expression during graduation. Both FNA local and FNA legal are based upon model policies written by Kelly Shackelford, an attorney for the Liberty Legal Institute of Plano.
Graduation Speakers at Graduation Ceremonies: Opening & Closing Remarks:
The District hereby creates a limited public forum consisting of an opportunity for a student to speak to begin graduation ceremonies and another student to speak to end graduation ceremonies. For each speaker, the District shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion.
Content of Opening & Closing Remarks:
The topic of the opening and closing remarks must be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony and to the purpose of marking the opening and closing of the event; honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance; bringing the audience to order; and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event.
Prayer at School Activities:
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 student shall not be required, encouraged, or coerced to engage in or refrain from such prayer or meditation during any school activity. Education Code 25.901
Nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the District affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.
The District shall not adopt a policy that establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.
Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) (addressing school-sponsored, student-led prayer delivered over the public address system at high school football games) [For invocations and benedictions at commencement, see FMH]
School officials shall not direct the performance of a formal religious exercise at promotional and graduation ceremonies. Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) (addressing prayer by clergy at graduation)
School Sponsored Speech:
The District shall not adopt a policy that establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events. The religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when a district affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) (addressing school-sponsored, student-led prayer delivered over the public address system at high school football games)
For additional questions, please contact the Office of Public Information at 469.948.8152 or at email@example.com