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4J Expands Religious Accommodations Policy

Policy change seeks to aid students in avoiding conflicts between religious observances and important school events

Eugene School District 4J has broadened its policy accommodating students’ religious observances, to assist students in our religiously diverse community in avoiding conflicts between important academic and school-related events and major holy days.

The school board unanimously approved the expanded policy during its Oct. 21 meeting after months of review and discussion. The new policy goes beyond previous religious accommodations that are required by law and typical for school districts.

Previously, district policy excused students who missed classes due to their religious beliefs and allowed them to make up course work and tests at another time without any penalty. Schools also were encouraged to be aware of potential conflicts with major holidays when scheduling important schoolwide events.

The updated policy prohibits schools from scheduling important events that can’t be made up, such as the annual school open house or Outdoor School, on major religious holidays except in limited circumstances. When setting dates for other special events, such as field trips, tryouts and concerts, teachers and other school staff are required to consider religious holidays, and to inform students and parents of plans in advance so conflicts with religious observances can be avoided if reasonably possible or accommodated if not. Administrator approval is required for a field trip or an important co-curricular or extra-curricular activity to be scheduled on a major religious holiday.

In the classroom, if a student misses an assignment, test, quiz or final exam review due to a major religious holiday, teachers will provide a meaningful opportunity and reasonable time to make up the missed work, and will not require the make-up opportunity or homework submission to be on the immediately following school day. In addition, the board must consider possible conflicts with major religious holidays on final exam days when they consider adoption of the academic calendar each year.

The district will prepare a list of major religious holidays, communicate it to staff, and post it on this website.

Parents and students are encouraged to communicate their need for religious accommodation to the school.

The board review came in response to community feedback about the experience of some students who had faced conflicts between school events, including field trips and tryouts, and major holy days such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The district is seeking to avoid such conflicts for students in the future to the best of its ability while continuing to provide robust and high-quality education for all students on every day of the year.

More information:
Revised Board Policy JEF: Accommodation for Religious Instruction and Observance
School Board Meeting Oct. 21, 2020

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