The U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance Monday on prayer and religious expression in public schools in light of a Supreme Court ruling on the issue last year.
Per the new guidance, "Teachers, school administrators, and other school employees may not encourage or discourage private prayer or other religious activity." It also says that while employees can engage in private religious expression or observance before school or during breaks, they cannot "compel, coerce, persuade, or encourage students to join in the employee's prayer or other religious activity."
The guidance further states "a school may take reasonable measures to ensure that students are not pressured or encouraged to join in the private prayer of their teachers or coaches."
The U.S. Department of Education's updated guidance comes almost a year after the Kennedy v. Bremerton ruling, in which the Supreme Court said a public school district could not stop a football coach from praying on the 50-yard line. The case was expected to have implications for how districts nationwide manage staff's religious expression or prayer.
“The Department fully examined the Kennedy v. Bremerton decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and other relevant case law to ensure the guidance reflects the current state of the law, and that policies of schools and school districts should be consistent with those rulings," said an Education Department spokesperson in an email to K-12 Dive.
In a video accompanying the guidance's release, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, "Many educators, school leaders, students, families, and faith communities are wondering what the Supreme Court’s recent Kennedy ruling means for them.” The department's goal, he said, "is to provide clarity at a moment of confusion and reaffirm our students’ freedom of religion."