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Introduced Version House Bill 3009 History

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hb3009 intr
H. B. 3009


          (By Delegates Householder, Sobonya, Overington,
Cadle and Gearheart)

          [Introduced March 20, 2013; referred to the
          Committee on Education then the Judiciary.]


A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §18-33-1, §18-33-2, §18-33-3, §18-33-4, §18-33-5, §18-33-6 and §18-33-7, all relating to enacting a Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act; prohibiting discrimination based on a religious perspective; requiring a policy establishing a limited public forum for student speakers; prohibiting a penalty or reward on account of the religious content of student work; allowing organization of prayer groups, religious clubs and other religious gatherings before, during and after school; requiring policy regarding limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious perspectives; and providing a model policy.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
     That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §18-33-1, §18-33-2, §18-33-3, §18-33-4, §18-33-5, §18-33-6 and §18-33-7, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 33. SCHOOLCHILDREN'S RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES ACT.
§18-33-1. Short title.

_____This article may be known and cited as the "Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act."
§18-33-2. Nondiscrimination based on a religious perspective.
_____Each county school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other perspective on an otherwise permissible subject. A county school district may not discriminate against a student based on a religious perspective expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
§18-33-3. Policy establishing a limited public forum for student speakers required.
_____(a) To ensure that local school districts do not discriminate against a student's publicly stated voluntary expression of a religious perspective and to eliminate any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to a school district of a student's expression of a religious perspective, the board of education of each school district shall adopt a policy establishing a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak. The policy regarding the limited public forum must require the school district to:
_____(1) Provide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject;
_____(2) Provide a method, based on neutral criteria, for the selection of student speakers at school events and graduation ceremonies;
_____(3) Ensure that a student speaker does not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd or indecent speech; and
_____(4) State orally or in writing, or both, that the student's speech does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the school district.
_____(b) The school district disclaimer required by subsection (a) of this section must be provided at all graduation ceremonies. The school district shall also provide the disclaimer at any other event in which a student speaks publicly for so long as a need exists to dispel any confusion over the district's nonsponsorship of the student's speech.
_____(c) Student expression on an otherwise permissible subject may not be excluded from a limited public forum because the subject is expressed from a religious perspective.
§18-33-4. No penalty or reward on account of the religious content of student work.
_____Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.
§18-33-5. Organization of prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings before, during and after school allowed.
_____Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings or other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. School districts must provide religious groups the same access to school facilities for assembling that is given to other noncurricular 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, the school district may not discriminate against any group that meets for prayer or other religious speech. A school district may disclaim school sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or religious speech.
§18-33-6. Policy regarding limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious perspectives required.
_____The board of education of each school district shall adopt and implement a policy regarding a limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious perspectives. If a school district adopts and follows the model policy governing voluntary religious expression in public schools provided by section seven of this article, the district shall be presumed to be in compliance with those provisions of this chapter which are addressed by the model policy.
§18-33-7. Model policy.
_____For purposes of this article, the term "model policy" means a policy adopted by the board of education of a local school district which is substantially identical to the following:
ARTICLE I
STUDENT EXPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES

_____The school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other perspective on an otherwise permissible subject. The school district may not discriminate against the student based on a religious perspective expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
ARTICLE II
STUDENT SPEAKERS AT NONGRADUATION EVENTS

_____A limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak is created. For each speaker, the school district shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion. Student speakers shall introduce:
_____(1) Football games;
_____(2) Any other athletic events designated by the district;
_____(3) Opening announcements and greetings for the school day; and
_____(4) Any additional events designated by the district, which may include, but is not necessarily limited to, assemblies and pep rallies.
_____The forum must be limited in the manner provided by this article.
_____Except as otherwise provided in this article, eligibility to use the limited public forum is limited to students who hold one of the following positions of honor based on neutral criteria:
_____(1) Class officers of the highest grade level in the school;
and
_____(2) Student council officers, captains of the football team and other students holding positions of honor designated by the county board of education in the highest two grade levels of the school.
_____Each school shall notify all eligible students of their eligibility to use the limited public forum. A student who wishes to participate as an introducing speaker shall submit the student's name to the student council or other designated body during a specified period, which period may not be less than three days. The specified period may be at the beginning of the school year, at the end of the preceding school year so that student speakers are in place for the new year, or, if the selection process will be repeated each semester, at the beginning of each semester or at the end of the preceding semester so speakers are in place for the next semester. The names of the volunteering student speakers shall be randomly drawn until all names have been selected, and the names shall be listed in the order drawn. Each participating student will be matched chronologically to the event for which the student will be giving the introduction. Student speakers may speak for one week at a time for all introductions of events that week, at a single speaking event or in another manner as determined by the school district. The list of student speakers shall be repeated chronologically, as needed, in the same order. The district may repeat the selection process each semester rather than once a year.
_____The subject of the student introductions must be related to the purpose of the event and to the purpose of marking the opening of the event, honoring the occasion, participants and those in attendance, bringing the audience to order and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event. The subject must be designated, a student must stay on the subject and the student may not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd or indecent speech. The school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other perspective on an otherwise permissible subject. The school district may not discriminate against the student based on a religious perspective expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
_____For as long as there is a need to dispel confusion over the nonsponsorship of the student's speech, at each event in which a student will deliver an introduction, a disclaimer shall be stated in written or oral form, or both, such as, "The student giving the introduction for this event is a volunteering student selected on neutral criteria to introduce the event. The content of the introduction is the private expression of the student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the school district."
_____The school district recognizes that certain students who have attained special positions of honor in a school traditionally have addressed school audiences from time to time as a tangential component of their achieved positions of honor, such as the captains of various sports teams, student council officers, class officers, homecoming kings and queens, prom kings and queens, and the like, based on neutral criteria. Nothing in this policy eliminates the continuation of the practice of having these students, irrespective of grade level, address school audiences in the normal course of their respective positions. The school district shall create a limited public forum for the speakers and shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other perspective on an otherwise permissible subject. The school district may not discriminate against the student based on a religious perspective expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
ARTICLE III
STUDENT SPEAKERS AT GRADUATION CEREMONIES

_____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 is created. For each speaker, the district shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion.
_____The forum shall be limited in the manner provided by this article.
_____Only students who are graduating and who hold one of the following neutral criteria positions of honor are eligible to use the limited public forum:
_____(1) Student council officers;
_____(2) Class officers of the graduating class;
_____(3) The top three academically ranked graduates; or
_____(4) A shorter or longer list of student leaders as the school district may designate.
_____A student who has a speaking role in the graduation ceremonies is ineligible to give the opening and closing remarks. The names of the eligible volunteering students will be drawn randomly. The student whose name is drawn first will give the opening remarks, and the student whose name is drawn second will give the 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.
_____In addition to the students giving the opening and closing remarks, certain other students who have attained special positions of honor based on neutral criteria, including, but not necessarily limited to, the valedictorian, will have speaking roles at graduation ceremonies. For each speaker, the school district shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion and to the position held by the speaker. For this purpose, the district creates a limited public forum for these students to deliver the addresses. The subject of the addresses must be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony, marking and honoring the occasion, honoring the participants and those in attendance, and the student's perspective on purpose, achievement, life, school, graduation and looking forward to the future.
_____The subject must be designated for each student speaker, the student must stay on the subject and the student may not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd or indecent speech. The school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious perspective on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other perspective on an otherwise permissible subject. The school district may not discriminate against the student based on a religious perspective expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.
_____A written disclaimer shall be printed in the graduation program that states, "The students speaking at the graduation ceremony were selected based on neutral criteria to deliver messages of each student's own choice. The content of each student speaker's message is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect any position or expression of the school district, the school board, the district's administration or employees of the district or the views of any other graduate. The contents of these messages were prepared by the student volunteers, and the district refrained from any interaction with student speakers regarding the student speakers' perspectives on permissible subjects."
ARTICLE IV
RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

_____A student may express the student's beliefs about religion in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the student's submission. Homework and classroom work must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of religious content. If a teacher's assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) must be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and the student may not be penalized or rewarded on account of the poem's religious content.
ARTICLE V
FREEDOM TO ORGANIZE RELIGIOUS GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES

_____Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings and other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. Religious groups must be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as other noncurricular groups, without discrimination based on the religious content of the group's expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce the groups' meetings by advertising in a student newspaper, putting up posters, making announcements on a student activities bulletin board or public address system, or handing out leaflets, the school district may not prohibit any group that meets for prayer or other religious speech from announcing or advertising its meetings in similar manners. The school district may disclaim sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events if the disclaimer is administered in a manner that does not favor or disfavor groups that meet to engage in prayer or other religious speech.



     NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to enact a Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act. The bill includes provisions requiring county boards of education to implement policies to protect students from discrimination based on a religious perspective.
     
     This article is new; therefore, it has been completely underscored.
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