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First Amendment Issues in Public Charter Schools

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Source MN Association of Charter Schools

Ever since the public-school movement began in the early 1800s, there have been questions about first amendment issues relative to students and public schools. Since the 1940s there have been numerous  federal district and supreme court cases on various aspects of first amendment rights – everything from whether the state can compel students to recite the pledge of allegiance to prayer in schools, and from a state banning the teaching of evolution to censorship of student publications.

First amendment questions, especially questions about free speech and the teaching or the exercise of religion, arise in public schools (traditional and charter) on a regular basis. Given that reality, charter school boards, administrators, teachers, and parents need to know and understand the first amendment and how the court rulings over the decades have shaped what are acceptable and unacceptable policies and practices in public schools regarding first amendment issues.

In 2008 and amended in 2019, the MN Association of Charter Schools issued a Policy Statement on Public Charter Schools & Religion, which affirms that charter schools as public schools need to comply with the federal and state constitutions, laws, and regulations regarding religious expression, accommodations of religious needs and requirements, and the teaching of religion in school. The statement further calls on charter schools to ensure there are ongoing efforts to educate all members of the charter school community about the school policies related to religious expression, accommodation, and the teaching of religions in the school.


Resources for Teaching About the First Amendment

Constitution Center

The First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum Institute 

Vanderbilt – John Seigenthaler Center

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