A: The State (in the form of a public school) is prohibited by the US Constitution from endorsing religion–a specific religion or religion generally.
If students speak spontaneously (as at opening ceremonies or at a graduation exercise) they have greater flexibility to invoke a higher power or, “pray” to the gods of the earth and sky than do the employees of public schools.
They are not speaking as the State. Certainly educators’ integrity would prohibit them from directing students (or hinting to them) that they should pray. If the speech of students is truly spontaneous and independent, they can say anything appropriate at a school event.
What is UPPAC? UPPAC is a committee of nine educators and two community members charged with maintaining and promoting a high standard of professional conduct and ethics among Utah teachers. It is advisory to the Utah State Board of Education in making recommendations regarding educator licensing and may take appropriate disciplinary action regarding educator misconduct.
For more information about UPPAC or to submit your questions to the UPPAC Q&A, contact William Spiegel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 801-538-7500.
Read the UPPAC newsletter, “Utah School Law Update,” for more Utah public education legal news and information.