Wilton Board of Ed discusses religion policy

A policy regarding religion in the public schools here will be an agenda item on the Board of Education meeting this evening, June 20, at 7 p.m. in the Wilton High School Professional Library at 395 Danbury Road.

The policy has been in the works for several months and was presented at the board's June 6 meeting. The main challenges facing the schools concern religious holidays and musical programs, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith said.

"Especially in December… many in the community are inculcated in Judeo-Christian traditions and these make their way into the schools and are out of sync with students who follow other traditions," he said. As Wilton becomes more diverse, the schools must be aware of the implicit messages that may be sent, he added.

The draft policy that will be presented this evening says the schools "will be neutral in all matters of religion," but that does not mean students won't learn about the worlds's religions and the role it has played in the "social, cultural, and historical development of civilization." Thus, the district will approach religion from a curriculum-based perspective.

"We don't want to erase religion, because religion and history are so intertwined," Smith said. "We want to be clear about the parameters were explore and curriculum avenues make the most sense."

The draft regulation will allow for student absences for religious observances and indicates tests, quizzes and homework will not be assigned on major religious holidays. All religions will be afforded equal dignity. Programs should focus on seasonal rather than religious themes and performances which recognize holidays must be of an artistic and not religious nature.

Students and staff members "may be excused from participating in activities contrary to their religious beliefs, unless there are clear issues of compelling public interest, as determined by the superintendent."

Members of the public may comment on the proposed policy and regulation at this evening's meeting. The meeting will also be broadcast on Channel 78 and may be viewed later on the district website, wiltonps.org.