‘Rolling Chapel’ coming to a school near you?
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.