Oregon releases policy for religious clothing at schools

December 9, 2010

(RNS) Oregon state officials released a policy on Wednesday (Dec. 8)
intended to give school districts guidance in applying Oregon's new law
on religious clothing.


A statewide ban on teacher religious dress was originally enacted in
1923 to keep Catholic nuns from teaching in public schools during a time
of anti-Catholic bigotry.


State lawmakers repealed the ban during February's special
legislative session.


For the past month, a group of about 20 people from organizations
including the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, Oregon
Education Association, American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and the
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon have been creating a model policy to
help districts create their own policies.


The new law -- which goes into effect on July 1st, 2011, allows
district employees to wear religious clothing except if it hinders the
district's ability to "maintain neutrality" in the school environment.


The policy gives districts a number of factors to consider before
restricting or prohibiting an employee from wearing religious clothing.
The factors include evaluating the size and visibility of the religious
clothing, the number of employees wearing similar clothing, and whether
the employee intends to use the clothing to proselytize students.