AN ACT TO CLARIFY STUDENT RIGHTS TO ENGAGE IN PRAYER AND RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY IN SCHOOL, TO CREATE AN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESS FOR REMEDYING COMPLAINTS REGARDING EXERCISE OF THOSE STUDENT RIGHTS, AND TO CLARIFY RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY FOR SCHOOL PERSONNEL.
Senate committee substitute to the 1st edition makes the following changes. Deletes the provisions of the 1st edition and replaces it with the following. Enacts new Article 29D, Student Prayer and Religious Activity, in GS Chapter 115C. Requires a student to be allowed to voluntarily perform six activities related to prayer and religious activity, including express religious viewpoints in a public school and possess or distribute religious literature in a public school (subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions), to the same extent and under the same circumstances as permitted on nonreligious topics. Allows a student to be prohibited from engaging in those six actions if the actions would (1) infringe on the rights of the school to maintain order and discipline, prevent disruption of the educational process, and determine educational curriculum and assignments; (2) harass other persons or coerce other students to participate in the activity; or (3) otherwise infringe on the rights of the other persons.
Provides that if a student alleges that a right under the Article has been violated, a complaint is to be first made to the school's principal, and then to the superintendent if the student's concerns are not resolved by the principal. If the superintendent does not resolve the concerns within 30 days, the student, parent, or guardian may appeal to the local board of education. Allows the student to assert the violation as a cause of action or defense in a judicial proceeding for relief against the local board of education only after exhausting all of those administrative remedies. Requires the Attorney General to intervene and provide legal defense of the Article in an action that challenges the constitutionality of the Article.
Provides that the Article is not to be construed to support, encourage, or allow a teacher, administrator, or other local board of education employee to lead, direct, or encourage any religious or antireligious activity in violation of the First Amendment. Prohibits local boards from prohibiting school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds, initiated by students at reasonable times as long as it is voluntary and does not conflict with the personnel responsibilities. Allows school employees supervising extracurricular activities to be present when students exercise their right to pray and prohibits them from being disrespectful of the student's rights.
Repeals GS 115C-47(29b), which prohibited a local board of education from having a policy of denying, or that effectively prevents participation in, prayer in public schools by individuals on a voluntary basis, except when necessary to maintain order and discipline, and from encouraging or requiring participation in prayer or influencing the form or content of any prayer in public schools.
Includes a severability clause.
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