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No Educator Left Behind

Constitutionally
Protected
Prayer

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No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.

Question:

What are schools' responsibilities regarding constitutionally protected prayer under the No Child Left Behind Act?

U.S. Department of Education:

In order to receive federal funds, a local education agency (LEA) must annually certify in writing to its state education agency (SEA) that the LEA has no policy that prevents or denies student and staff participation in constitutionally protected prayer in its elementary and secondary schools. LEAs are required to submit the certification to SEAs by October 1. By November 1, SEAs must notify the Department of Education of any LEAs that have not filed certification.

No specific certification form for LEAs to use has been designated; states should establish systems for processing certifications.

Some student activities that fall under constitutionally protected prayer include

  • praying during non-instructional time, such as during recess or lunch;
  • reading religious texts during non-instructional time;
  • praying before meals; and
  • forming prayer groups or religious clubs that meet before or after school.
Staff members also are permitted to meet with colleagues before school or during lunch for prayer or religious study groups. Teachers are not permitted to engage in those activities with students.

Students also may express their religious beliefs in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments.

For more information on constitutionally protected prayer and the No Child Left Behind Act, see Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.

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