Laurel Palm Middle School was considered to be a successful school. It was one of the top ten performing schools. For three successive years, it had been awarded a National Distinguished School Award. The school had had a strong culture of teaching and learning. Parents were engaged in planning school programs and improving all aspects of the school and its operations. Ms. Avery, the principal instituted specific curriculum goals and objectives that aligned with the school district. She organized a team of parents and teachers who was in charge of developing new and interesting curriculum programs. In the past, the committee’s recommendation of new and innovative ideas such as improving the science curriculum and developing a continuum for learning in math and literature had been supported by the district.
Those ideas were adopted citywide for middle schools. Ms. Beckel, one of the parents on the team, suggested that a religious studies curriculum be added to the current program using the bible as one of the textbooks after she learned that other schools were including a religious component to their curriculum. The committee and the principal supported her ideas. Before Ms Becky and Ms Kassidy presented the final curriculum document at the next site meeting committee, Ms Beckel informed, Ms. Wright, one of her neighbors about the religious studies curriculum which included the bible as one of the texts that the school was going to implement.
2) Identify the problem in a single sentence!
Ms. Wright disdained the religious studies curriculum, including the use of the bible in school, on the basis that state and church should be separated. She met them at the site meeting with the media.
a) Ms Avery had a reputation of supporting her teachers.
b) Ms Kassidy was a classroom teacher who served on the committee. c) Ms Beckel was one of the parents who suggested that a religious studies course be added to the current curriculum. d) Ms Wright believed in separation of state and church opposed the use of the bible as a text book. e) The media showed up at the site meeting.
a) Laurel Palm Middle School
b) The Jonathan Ode Community Cultural Center
a) The religious studies course
b) The curriculum development program
4- The committee and Ms Beckel decided to include a religious studies curriculum in the program. The principal approved of it. However, Ms Wright one of the community members did not. She threatened to show up at the committee meeting with the media. On the day of the meeting, Ms Wright showed up with a placard protesting the use of the bible in public schools. 5- Laurel Palm Middle School was one of the top 10 performing schools. The school had a population of 1,500 students and they are multicultural.
Questions to research and consider
1- A committee of parents, students and teachers should be able to develop curriculum programs for the school. Teachers can collect information on current effective practices in their schools; they can provide demonstration lessons to the public and their colleagues. Parents can share their expertise and experiences; they can serve as cooperative advisors, editors and advocates for their children. Students can also be a part of it because it helps define acceptable levels of expectations and identify motivating practices. 2- I would have followed up with the district on how to proceed and to what extent should the Bible, Torah and/or Koran be used as textbooks in a religious studies curriculum.
3- Ms. Wright is one of the members of the community and therefore should have the right to her opinion. It is a public matter. 4- I would have explained the three major principles on teaching about religion in public schools: 1) The Supreme Court has made it clear that study about religion in public schools is constitutional. 2) Inclusion of study about religion is important in order for students to be properly educated about history and culture. 3) Religion is to be taught objectively and neutrally. It enables schools to educate students about a variety of religious traditions, but not indoctrinate them into any tradition.
5- Yes, it should be common practice to keep the line of communication open with not only one’s supervisor but also his/her staff. Everyone should be on the same page. 6) I would send a survey to parents asking them about their opinions prior to approving the religious studies curriculum. I would send a letter to parents asking for their support at the site meeting.
8) A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools
9) As a principal, I believe in transparency. There is not much that one can do about this particular situation. Programs in schools including their curriculum should always be public information. The committee and parents had always done a great job. 10) I don’t believe so. I would ensure that the school’s approach to religion is academic but not devotional and strive for students’ awareness of religions but not to press for student acceptance of any religion. The school would expose students to diversity of religious views, but not to impose any particular views. The school should not denigrate religion, but rather educate students about all religions.
Courtney from Study Moose
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