Florida Senate - 2017 SB 436 By Senator Baxley 12-00655-17 2017436__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to religious expression in public 3 schools; providing a short title; prohibiting a school 4 district from discriminating against students, 5 parents, or school personnel on the basis of religious 6 viewpoints or expression; prohibiting penalty or 7 reward for a student’s religious expression in 8 coursework, artwork, or other specified assignments; 9 authorizing a student to wear clothing, accessories, 10 and jewelry displaying religious messages or symbols; 11 authorizing a student to pray or engage in religious 12 activities or expression; authorizing a student to 13 organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and other 14 religious gatherings; prohibiting a school district 15 from preventing school personnel from participating in 16 voluntary, student-initiated religious activities on 17 school grounds under specified circumstances; 18 requiring a school district to comply with the federal 19 requirements in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 20 1964; requiring that a school district provide 21 religious groups with equal access to school 22 facilities; authorizing religious groups to advertise 23 or announce meetings in the same manner and to the 24 same extent as secular groups; requiring that a school 25 district adopt a limited public forum policy and 26 deliver a disclaimer at school events; requiring that 27 the Department of Education develop and publish a 28 model policy regarding a limited public forum and 29 religious expression; requiring that each district 30 school board adopt and implement such model policy; 31 providing an effective date. 32 33 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 34 35 Section 1. Religious expression in public schools.— 36 (1) This section may be cited as the “Florida Student and 37 School Personnel Religious Liberties Act.” 38 (2) A school district may not discriminate against a 39 student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious 40 viewpoint or religious expression. A school district shall treat 41 a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an 42 otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the school 43 district treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular 44 viewpoint. 45 (3)(a) A student may express his or her religious beliefs 46 in coursework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments 47 free from discrimination. A student’s homework and classroom 48 assignments shall be evaluated, regardless of their religious 49 content, based on expected academic standards relating to the 50 course curriculum and requirements. A student may not be 51 penalized or rewarded based on the religious content of his or 52 her work if the coursework, artwork, or other written or oral 53 assignments require a student’s viewpoint to be expressed. 54 (b) A student may wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry 55 that display a religious message or symbol in the same manner 56 and to the same extent that secular types of clothing, 57 accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are 58 permitted to be worn. 59 (4)(a) A student may pray or engage in religious activities 60 or religious expression before, during, and after the school day 61 in the same manner and to the same extent that a student may 62 engage in secular activities or expression. A student may 63 organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and other religious 64 gatherings before, during, and after the school day in the same 65 manner and to the same extent that a student is permitted to 66 organize secular activities and groups. 67 (b)1. A school district may not prevent school personnel 68 from participating in religious activities on school grounds 69 that are initiated by students at reasonable times before or 70 after the school day if such activities are voluntary and do not 71 conflict with the responsibilities or assignments of such 72 personnel. 73 2. A school district shall comply with the federal 74 requirements in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which 75 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on 76 the basis of religion. 77 (c) A school district shall give a religious group access 78 to the same school facilities for assembling as given to secular 79 groups without discrimination based on the religious content of 80 the group’s expression. A group that meets for prayer or other 81 religious speech may advertise or announce its meetings in the 82 same manner and to the same extent that a secular group may 83 advertise or announce its meetings. 84 (5)(a) A school district shall adopt a policy that 85 establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any 86 school event at which a student is to speak publicly. The 87 limited public forum policy shall require the school district 88 to: 89 1. Provide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate 90 against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious 91 viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject; 92 2. Provide a method based on neutral criteria for the 93 selection of student speakers at school events, activities, and 94 graduation ceremonies; 95 3. Ensure that a student speaker does not engage in 96 obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent speech; and 97 4. State in written or oral form that the student’s speech 98 does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or 99 expression of the school district. 100 (b) The school district shall deliver the disclaimer 101 required in subparagraph (a)4. at all graduation events and any 102 other event at which a student speaks publicly. 103 (c) Student expression of a religious viewpoint on an 104 otherwise permissible subject may not be excluded from the 105 limited public forum. 106 (6) The Department of Education shall develop a model 107 policy regarding a limited public forum and voluntary expression 108 of religious viewpoints by students and school personnel in 109 public schools pursuant to this section. The department shall 110 publish the model policy on its website. Each district school 111 board shall adopt and implement the department’s model policy. 112 Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2017.