First Amendment: Religion and Education
Number of sources: 5
You have a standard practice of displaying all student work in your classroom. Recently, you assigned students to write any essay and submit a pictorial depiction on the person they considered to be their hero. One of your students submitted an essay on Jesus and a drawing of the Last Supper.
Write a 500-750-word essay in which you discuss:
Any legal issues regarding the grading of your student’s essay and whether you could display the student’s work.
How does the First Amendment apply to this situation?
Include at least five references in your essay. At least three of the five references should cite U.S. Supreme Court cases.
Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center.
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As an educator, it is important to be aware of the legal issues surrounding student work and the display of religious content in the classroom. In this case, a student submitted an essay on Jesus and a drawing of the Last Supper as their hero, and the teacher must consider whether they can grade the student’s work and display it in the classroom while adhering to the First Amendment.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. The First Amendment applies to this situation because it involves both the student’s expression of their religious beliefs and the teacher’s decision to display the student’s work in the classroom. However, the First Amendment also has limitations, such as the “establishment clause” which prohibits the government, including public schools, from establishing or endorsing religion.
In this case, the teacher must consider the legal issues surrounding the grading and display of the student’s work. The teacher cannot discriminate against the student based on their religious beliefs, but must evaluate the work based on its academic merit. Additionally, displaying the student’s work may be considered an endorsement of religion, which could violate the establishment clause.
Several U.S. Supreme Court cases have addressed the issue of displaying religious content in public schools. In the case of Stone v. Graham (1980), the Supreme Court ruled that a Kentucky law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools violated the establishment clause. The Court found that the law lacked a secular purpose and was intended to promote religion.
Similarly, in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution in public schools. The Court found that the law had a religious purpose and was therefore in violation of the establishment clause.
However, in the case of Board of Education v. Mergens (1990), the Supreme Court upheld the right of a Christian student club to meet on school grounds. The Court found that the school’s policy of allowing other non-curricular groups to meet on campus created a “limited open forum” that allowed the Christian club to meet without violating the establishment clause.
Based on these Supreme Court cases, the teacher must carefully consider the grading and display of the student’s work in the classroom. While the student has the right to express their religious beliefs, the teacher must evaluate the work based on its academic merit and avoid displaying the work in a way that could be seen as endorsing or promoting religion.
In conclusion, the teacher must be aware of the legal issues surrounding the grading and display of the student’s work in the classroom. While the First Amendment protects the student’s right to express their religious beliefs, the teacher must also adhere to the establishment clause and avoid endorsing or promoting religion in the classroom. By evaluating the work based on its academic merit and considering the legal limitations of the First Amendment, the teacher can ensure that they are creating a fair and legally compliant learning environment.
Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980).
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).
Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990).
U.S. Constitution. amend. I.
First Amendment Center. (n.d.). Overview of the First Amendment. Retrieved from https://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/overview-of-the-first-amendment/