How to accommodate students’ religious beliefs?

ANOTHER UPDATE: The mock trial schedule was changed so the team of Jewish students could fully compete.

UPDATE: A member of the State Bar of Georgia board resigned Wednesday after the national organizer of a mock trial event being held in Atlanta refused to rearrange the schedule to accommodate a team of Jewish students.

A team of students from an orthodox Jewish high school says they can’t compete in Saturday’s National High School Mock Trial Championship because the event will be held during their Sabbath.

The mock trial organization has refused to provide the Massachusetts team with an earlier slot, saying it would provide the students with an unfair advantage. The competition will be held in Atlanta.

The team said similar accommodations were made in 2005 when a Jewish team competed.

While it’s easy to understand both sides’ position, this situation raises the question as to what steps organizers must take to accommodate different religions.

How far must schools and other groups go to avoid religious conflicts?

56 comments Add your comment

Old School

May 5th, 2009
8:40 am

Real life is full of difficult choices.

jim d

May 5th, 2009
8:46 am

I don’t buy it.

The seed of modrn insurection begins with a demand for defferential treatment including insistence on religious accommodations, judicial separateness, as well as cultural and educational non integration.

I know for fact that members of the jewish faith who are also members of an ROTC program do in fact participate on their sabath days.

jim d

May 5th, 2009
8:48 am

Besides all of that let’s just look at what accommodation (IDEA) has done to education

jim d

May 5th, 2009
8:50 am

Old School,

I suspect we will now have to read all day on this blog the bold faced lies about religion being removed from our schools.

Geeze it could be a really long day!!

DB

May 5th, 2009
9:38 am

My son did Mock Trial for four years — this is something I am very familiar with. The organizers had the calendar for this competition last fall. State competitions were last February. If the dates fell on a day when they knew they weren’t going to be able to compete, then why did they enter the competition in the first place?

The seeding of the competition is a fairly critical component, so I can understand why the organizers would not want to face charges of favoritism from the other contestants.

Participants begin to arrive on Wednesday. Courtrooms are available for practice on Wednesday. Official orientation is on Thursday. Competition starts at 8:30 am on Friday, with Rounds 1 and 2. Rounds 3 and 4 are on Saturday, with the finals being Saturday afternoon at 4:30. It is impossible for Rounds 3 and 4 to be moved to Friday — there simply isn’t time, and it’s not fair to the other contestants, who have already faced two rounds that day.

They have to make a choice — not dig their heels in the dirt and force everyone else to make a choice around them. If they would prefer to observe their Sabbath, then that is their choice. But don’t act like it’s a huge surprise, because it’s not.

By the way, for those who aren’t familiar with it, the Jonesboro High School Mock Trial team was the 2007 AND 2008 National Mock Trial winner. This year, Georgia will be represented by Grady High School.

Meme

May 5th, 2009
9:43 am

It is difficult to accommodate everyone. They knew the rules when they went into this and knew that some of the competition would be on Saturday. Sorry.

And jim d, as a teacher in a small city school system, I know that religion has not been totally removed. They put it in whenever they can. lol

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
10:18 am

Don’t we cater enough to the Jews already?

high school teacher

May 5th, 2009
10:28 am

Given that the Eagle’s Landing baseball team has been ordered by the CDC not to participate in region and state playoffs because of the swine flu student at their school, I don’t think any accommodations should be made for this team who knew well in advance the dates of the tournament.

Reality

May 5th, 2009
10:48 am

School’s extra-curricular activities are just that, “extra.” The opportunities are there and are made available. If a student or group of students cannot or does not want to participate for any reason, that is their choice. I do not believe that the school or any extra-curricular activity should be moved around to accommodate anyone’s calendar.

Yes, I know that schools have a “winter break” that was originally “Christmas holiday.” Yes, I know that schools already have holidays established. But here we are talking about extra-curricular activities – it is a different topic.

There are HS basketball tourneys over “winter break”. It is the players choice to participate or not. But, the opportunity to participate is there.

dbow

May 5th, 2009
10:59 am

Hey Jeff, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone like you brought what should be a very interesting debate down to the lowest common denominator. Why don’t you do us all a favor and sit this one out and let the grown ups handle it. Good boy.

Teacher, Too

May 5th, 2009
11:00 am

Jeff, we cater more to Christians. Let’s see, the reason we can’t buy alcohol on Sunday isn’t because of the Jews. Stores are closed on Christmas and Easter, and many don’t open until afternoon (rooted in church?). You’re a bigot.

I’m Jewish,but I am not Orthodox. I shop, cook, drive, spend money, etc.. on Friday night and Saturday. However, these students are Orthodox. While many Jewish students do participate in Saturday activities, the Orthodox do not. They do not drive, turn on electricity, or do anything that is construed as work.

As many of you pointed out, the students/sponsors knew of the date well in advance. The story in the paper indicated that when the competition was held in NC, accomodations were made. Perhaps if the sponsors had addressed this earlier, then the accomodation could have been made.

dbow

May 5th, 2009
11:02 am

So if I understand what some posters are saying, the team should not have competed at all because they knew in advance that there would be a tournament on a Saturday? Is that right? You must be kidding. You can’t possibly be that shallow and nearsighted.

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
11:11 am

Long time, no see, but I agree with the general consensus so far. No need to make any concessions, the team knew well in advance that the event would happen on their Sabbath and chose to compete anyway.

With great Freedom comes great Responsibility…

high school teacher

May 5th, 2009
11:11 am

No, dbow, the point is that the sponsors should have spoken up sooner. Out of curiosity, what do you think should be done?

high school teacher

May 5th, 2009
11:16 am

No, dbow, we are saying that the sponsors should have spoken up sooner about accommodations or scheduling conflicts.

That point aside, families have to make the decision to allow their children to play sports on Wednesday nights or go to church. No one makes accommodations for them – practice will happen on Wednesdays whether or not we are there. JV volleyball games are scheduled in our region on Monday and Wednesday nights. People must choose.

V for Vendetta

May 5th, 2009
11:20 am

No one has the “right” to compete in these activities. If they happen to conflict with your particular faith, too bad for you. Schools are full of enough Christian garbage as it is. The last thing we need to do is start accomodating other religions. We should be creating a “wall of separation”* between government and religion, not catering to faith left and right. Then again, this IS the South . . . .

*”Wall of separation” quote by Thomas Jefferson

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
11:22 am

THIS is the Original Jeff – I haven’t been here in a while, just dropped back in today.

I happen to agree with the majority on this one. They knew what they were doing and went ahead and competed, so the competition should NOT have to accomodate them.

With great Freedom comes great Responsibility…

Northern Visitor

May 5th, 2009
11:27 am

Wow. I can’t believe some of the comments here. I guess the only religion you people accommodate is Christianity huh?

William Casey

May 5th, 2009
11:31 am

I wonder if this discussion would have the same tone if the students were fundamental Christians and the event was scheduled for Sunday.

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
11:37 am

William Casey:

As far as I personally am concerned, yes, it would. If a schedule is made and you compete anyway, you knew up front when the events were going to take place.

Even if no schedule was made in advance, you still choose whether to continue competing once the schedule DOES come out. No one forces you either way.

dbow

May 5th, 2009
11:55 am

The issue would be the same for the Christian faith, but the accomodations would be there. Actually I take that back. The tournament would NEVER have been scheduled on a Sunday to begin with.

catlady

May 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

Around here NOTHING is scheduled for a Wednesday night. No school activities ever. How is that for “accomodation?”

We Christians need to search the Bible for evidence that Jesus/God changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. You will find that Jesus and, later, his disciples, worshiped on the Sabbath, as was their custom, even after He arose.

jim d

May 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

OMG, here we go!

dbow

May 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

I think this is getting out of hand. Let’s not make this a Chrisitan versus Jewish thing because that’s going to get ugly fast.

DB

May 5th, 2009
12:10 pm

William Casey – If this were a fundamental Christian who observed Sunday for faith reasons, then yes, I would have said the exact same thing.

In one sense, the sponsors are stuck. They do not have any competitions scheduled for Thursday, and most teams made travel plans two months ago allowing for arrival on Wednesday or Thursday, with competition to start on Friday. (It IS the end of the year — for many students, it has required re-scheduling of final exams, AP exams, etc.) Four rounds cannot be played on Friday. It’s like playing four rounds of basketball in one day. The only possible accomodation at this point would be to move the final to after sundown on Saturday, from 4:30 pm — assuming, of course, that the Brookline school made it that far. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, that would, of course, completely disrupt the presentations and awards planned for Saturday evening, which honors ALL the participants.

The last time accomodations were made, the National Mock Trial committed said: “In the second round in 2005, the New Jersey team should have faced a power-matched opponent, but this was impossible since no other teams had yet competed. This created an unfair advantage for the New Jersey team. In the fourth round for New Jersey on late Friday afternoon, its opponent was only given minutes notice that they would be competing in this round, thus affording them no preparation time; while the New Jersey team knew several weeks in advance that it would be competing at that time.”

This is an extracurricular event, not a “right”. No one’s “rights” are being abridged. The school is complaining that “we’ve never won a state championship in ANYTHING, and now we can’t compete . . .” Guess what, boys and girls: In most high school level state championships, there IS no national competition. The school wins the state championship, and are happy. There are some Mock Trial state champions who are unable to attend the national competition due to funding issues. Should accomodations be made for them, also?

Joyce

May 5th, 2009
12:15 pm

Most people or organizations want to afford kids interested in their profession every opportunity. That being said, any special accommodations needed for whatever reason, should have been requested far enough in advance for the group to act on them.

Reality

May 5th, 2009
12:23 pm

This should not be a debate on religon at all. It should be surrounding the facts…

There are plenty of extra-curricular activities in a school. One cannot expect for others to make accommodations for their own choices (religon or whatever)….. especially when looking at a calendar that has likely been in place for a while (football schedules, etc.). How can that be reasonable to anyone?

For those saying that we ONLY accommodate Christans? That is simply not true. There are high school and college and pro sports scheduled throughout the “Christmas” season. These games are not canceled because of any religous holiday.

Really guys – if we scheduled anything around ALL religous days, it just couldn’t be done. There aren’t enough days in the year!

DB

May 5th, 2009
12:24 pm

Just out of curiosity, and, really, in the spirit of fact finding: What would the Orthodox kids do from Friday evening through Saturday, if they are being truly observant? Walk to temple . . . sit in their hotel rooms with the lights out? Pack food in coolers for Friday and Saturday nights, since spending money is prohibited? I know that some observant highly Orthodox families used to hire someone to come turn their lights on and off for them during the Shabbat – would this team have a similar arrangement? Inquiring minds are curious.

DB

May 5th, 2009
12:31 pm

Another thought: If the team refuses to compete on Saturday due to religious reasons, does that mean that Sharon High School, the runner up, would then represent Massachusetts? (Probably not, since Sharon High School would have missed the weeks of prep time the other teams have had . . . )

William Casey

May 5th, 2009
12:33 pm

JEFF: I’ll bet you $1,000 that the schedule was made by Christians.

high school teacher

May 5th, 2009
12:34 pm

Catlady, our church does not claim to meet on the Sabbath. We specifically meet on the first day of the week, based on a reference of the disciples’ actions in Acts. There is also of course the significance of Christ rising on a Sunday.

V for Vendetta

May 5th, 2009
12:34 pm

William Casey, a few years ago it WOULD be a completely different story but nowadays people are so lawsuit happy that it probably would not be handled any differently. Besides, no high schools can participate in events on Sunday anyway. :-)

Northern Visitor, we shouldn’t be accomodating ANY religion, much less Christianity. We don’t want to look stupid by putting stickers in science books or something. Oh, wait a minute . . . .

Lee

May 5th, 2009
12:34 pm

Oh good grief, just slip the judges a couple of dollars to make sure this team gets eliminated in the first round.

Problem solved.

DB

May 5th, 2009
12:41 pm

And if it makes the Unequal Opportunity for Christians segment feel better, the Georgia Mock Trial competition this year was conducted over a weekend, with preliminary rounds all day Saturday and Sunday morning, and finals Sunday afternoon. It’s thought to minimize the amount of time the kids spend away from school.

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
12:54 pm

William Casey:

In this modern age, I would almost be willing to take you up on that bet, as there is about a 90% chance that it is a easy K for me!

V for Vendetta

May 5th, 2009
12:54 pm

Maybe we should stone anyone who breaks the sabbath. I mean, that’s what the Bible says in Numbers 15:32, right?

Joyce

May 5th, 2009
1:19 pm

Or maybe people who know that they have a particular unchangeable scheduling issue should get these issues addressed ahead of time?

Reality2

May 5th, 2009
1:25 pm

Why don’t they just complete in the first 2 rounds and forfeit the others (assuming if they advance)?

Sarah H

May 5th, 2009
1:38 pm

Someone here said that they had their reservations months in advance. I don’t understand why they didn’t ask for the problem to be worked out then. Why did they wait until the last minute? Did they want to cause a problem?

jim d

May 5th, 2009
1:48 pm

ah hell someones gotta say it so it may as well be me.

What difference does it make –we really don’t need any more jewish lawyers anyway.

dbow

May 5th, 2009
1:55 pm

Jeff, no one really had to say that. You just wanted to let everyone know that you’re an anti-semite and a bigot in general. Mission accomplished, jerk.

motherjanegoose

May 5th, 2009
2:39 pm

O.K….here is my question, when a Baptist church volunteers their sanctuary to be used for a public school function and a non Christian asks for the crosses to be removed for the ceremony ( offensive to her religion)….where does one draw the line?
The room has been volunteered…not like anyone is paying for it. When you are paying, you may expect more.
I have clients of all faith but some people are not familiar with the word GRACIOUS.

teach1

May 5th, 2009
2:43 pm

My two cents: It is a matter of priorities. Which is more important to you the mock trial or your religion? Example: My daughter was recently in a performance that demanded Saturday practices She had to quit 6 weeks into rehearsals when she got her summer job and it required a mandatory meeting at the same times as her practice. Tough choice but it had to be made. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with your priorities. Sometimes you simply can not have your cake and eat it too!

jim d

May 5th, 2009
4:24 pm

dbow,

cut jeff some slack–he cathes enough for what he does say–don’t be blaiming him for my comments. FYI–the spouse is of jewish descent. :)

motherjanegoose

May 5th, 2009
4:32 pm

teach1…you are absolutely correct! Sometimes we have to make choices. I admire parents who instill this in their children.

DB

May 5th, 2009
4:33 pm

MJG: Gee, you’d think that the person was being forced to take communion, to create that much of a fuss! If the person who is “offended” by the cross is TRULY offended, then they will take it upon themselves to find another, more acceptable place — TO EVERYONE –to hold the ceremony. It’s symbol, not a declaration of intent. Of course, if they are *that* offended, then presumably, do they also ask people who wear a cross on a necklace to take them off in their presence? Do they eschew Christian friends who may display a cross or rosary in their home?

Gee, my neighbor’s public school graduation was held at the temple off Peachtree Battle and Northside a couple of years ago. I didn’t hear a single murmur from the Christians who felt “defiled” by being in the same building as a Torah or a Star of David.

People need to get over themselves. Being rude is rude, no matter the religion.

motherjanegoose

May 5th, 2009
4:53 pm

DB…correct as usual.

Once…I was invited to share my Animal Program at a Temple Preschool OUT OF STATE. I packed and flew there. Only when I began to dress in costume, did I realize that I had pink pigs all over the costume….OMG!!!! We had a big laugh about this as Jewish folks are not into pork but tolerate pigs as actual animals….NO BIGGY and they even paid me. GRACIOUS folks and I love t work with them.

My point is that YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO PLEASE EVERYONE! Get a grip and figure out what is most important to you…then move on.

catlady

May 5th, 2009
5:49 pm

I feel for the team. However, I assume everyone knew the schedule well enough in advance to make travel arrangements. At the point at which it was known the competition might require use of the Sabbath, the team should have come to a decision to continue or withdraw.

However, I think it is folly to think that there is not a general tendency not only to favor Christian schedules (ie, no high school football games on Sunday) but also a Baptist tendency (no practices, no club meetings, no performances at the school, etc on Wednesday). We have no beer sales on Sunday but it is fine on the Sabbath! In my small town they even used to close up the stores and banks!! at noon on Wednesday 30 years ago (supposedly because they were open a half day on Saturdays).

As to the Christian vs. Jewish thing: there are many Christians who honor a Saturday Sabbath. Go to Collegedale, Tennessee to see what a Sabbath-keeping place looks like on a Saturday.

I have seen parents really wrestle with allowing their children to play in the high school band because of the Friday night football games and Saturday competitions, or because of theater productions. (I have never seen Sunday worshipers pull their kids out of Sunday theater performances, but of course it could happen.) Most of the time for Sabbath-keeping families, the kids have to drop the activity.

I would think that the promo material for this competition should make it CLEAR next year exactly when the competitions will take place, and whether or NOT there will be any accomodation for Jews, Adventists, Muslims, or whatever.

I just don’t think we should ignore the traditional pro-Sunday bias built into many of our governmental scheduling.

catlady

May 5th, 2009
5:52 pm

I also think back to my high school baccalaureate (do they still have those) which was a religious service IN A CHURCH that the graduates were REQUIRED to attend in order to march the next day.

motherjanegoose

May 5th, 2009
7:22 pm

catlady…in our county it is not required and they have REALLY toned it down…I do not think they are even allowed to pray.