‘Rolling Chapel’ com­ing to a school near you?

Rappahannock News - - Comment - By Rachel Bynum

Here are some im­por­tant things that were not men­tioned in the Au­gust 30 ar­ti­cle “Bi­ble study…” for our School Board and our com­mu­nity to con­sider as we de­cide whether or not to adopt a “Re­leased Time” pol­icy at RCPS [Rap­pa­han­nock County Public Schools]. Thank you for bring­ing this is­sue to the public’s at­ten­tion.

Al­low­ing “Re­leased Time” would take kids out of in­struc­tional time at school. For “re­leased” stu­dents, Arts cur­ricu­lum like band, art, and mu­sic, as well as PE, would be di­min­ished. The kids in “Rolling Chapel” as well as their band­mates, team­mates, and class­mates would be im­pacted by this. We as a com­mu­nity in­vest in and value arts and physical ed­u­ca­tion at our schools, not just be­cause they are fun but be­cause they ben­e­fit stu­dents’ de­vel­op­ment as learn­ers, their aca­demic achievemen­t, and their abil­ity to get along well with oth­ers. The value of these pro­grams is con­vinc­ing; if any­thing, re­search and public sen­ti­ment sup­ports more time de­voted to arts and physical ed­u­ca­tion, not less.

The con­tent of the pro­gram should be im­ma­te­rial to the Board’s de­ci­sion. A le­gal “Re­leased Time” pol­icy, as the Au­gust pre­sen­ta­tion to the Board pointed out, and as is made clear by or­ga­ni­za­tions that advocate for “Re­leased Time,” would open our schools to any and all re­li­gions. See https://www.re­leased­time.org/vir­ginia for more in­for­ma­tion. If you like the idea of a “Rolling Chapel,” know that if we choose to have this at our school, we also in­vite any other reli­gion to set up a chapel. As a thought ex­per­i­ment, pic­ture a re­li­gious doc­trine that you feel di­min­ishes you, your her­itage, or your per­sonal re­li­gious truths. That faith would also, in­deed, be wel­comed un­der this pol­icy.

RCPS has a very good pol­icy on reli­gion in schools, (see below). It takes no sides on re­li­gious is­sues, and al­lows for teach­ing about reli­gion. It matches with the pol­icy of most Vir­ginia school dis­tricts. Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in Vir­tual Vir­ginia gives stu­dents ac­cess to com­par­a­tive re­li­gions classes. Our So­cial Stud­ies depart­ment also cov­ers re­li­gious un­der­pin­nings of var­i­ous cul­tures, in­clud­ing world and US his­tory classes. There is room within our pol­icy for more teach­ing about phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion in our schools, to pre­pare stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in the world and un­der­stand the sto­ries and tra­di­tions that have driven civ­i­liza­tion.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers I’ve dis­cussed this with feel that reli­gion is an ac­tiv­ity for the home and church. Churches, in­clud­ing Reynolds Memo­rial Bap­tist, propos­ing this pol­icy, cur­rently have stu­dents bussed to church for af­ter school ac­tiv­i­ties. If mak­ing them more ac­ces­si­ble is a pri­or­ity,

ar­rang­ing for safe rides home after­wards for in­ter­ested fam­i­lies would be a good idea.

I’d also like to point out that School is def­i­nitely not a place to dis­card the val­ues that are taught by our re­li­gions. Val­ues of kind­ness to one an­other, hon­esty, and for­give­ness are con­stantly on dis­play and cul­ti­vated in our public schools, and are mod­eled by our staff and stu­dents. Our school motto: Re­spect, Pride, Com­mu­nity, Suc­cess! And, of course, our peren­nial cheer “WE ARE RAP­PA­HAN­NOCK” af­firm that this is a com­mu­nity for all of us. We are all so for­tu­nate to live in this beloved place, to­gether.

The writer is a mem­ber of the Rap­pa­han­nock School Board rep­re­sent­ing the Pied­mont Dis­trict.

AT­TACH­MENT: RELI­GION IN THE SCHOOLS

The Rap­pa­han­nock County School Board is neu­tral in mat­ters of reli­gion. This means that the Rap­pa­han­nock County schools

∙ as­sume no role or re­spon­si­bil­ity for the re­li­gious train­ing of any stu­dent and

∙ do not be­come in­volved in the re­li­gious be­lief, dis­be­lief or doubt of any stu­dent.

This neu­tral­ity does not pre­clude or hinder the Rap­pa­han­nock County school di­vi­sion in ful­fill­ing its re­spon­si­bil­ity to educate stu­dents to be tol­er­ant and re­spect­ful of re­li­gious di­ver­sity. The di­vi­sion rec­og­nizes that one of its ed­u­ca­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to ad­vance the stu­dents' knowl­edge and appreciati­on of the role that reli­gion has played in the so­cial, cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of civ­i­liza­tion.

There­fore, the di­vi­sion ap­proaches reli­gion from an ob­jec­tive, cur­ricu­lum-re­lated per­spec­tive, en­cour­ag­ing all stu­dents and staff mem­bers to be aware of the di­ver­sity of be­liefs and re­spect­ful of each other's re­li­gious and/or non-re­li­gious views. In that spirit of re­spect, stu­dents and staff mem­bers may be ex­cused from par­tic­i­pat­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties that are con­trary to their re­li­gious be­liefs.

The School Board may au­tho­rize, as an elec­tive in grades nine through 12 with ap­pro­pri­ate credits to­ward grad­u­a­tion, a com­par­a­tive reli­gion class that fo­cuses on the ba­sic tenets, his­tory, and re­li­gious ob­ser­vances and rites of world re­li­gions. Adopted: Au­gust 8, 1995

Re­viewed: April 13, 1999

Re­vised: July 10, 2001, Novem­ber 9, 2004, June 14, 2005, Oc­to­ber 10, 2006

Re­viewed: May 12, 2015

Re­vised: Novem­ber 10, 2015. Le­gal Refs.: U.S. Const. amend. I. Code of Vir­ginia, 1950, as amended, §§ 22.1-78, 22.1-202.1.

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