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blank.gif (43 bytes) Your rights at school
The equal access act
Equal access and me
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launch 3.10

Meeting With Your Principal

What if I need to talk to the principal?

Find out what your school’s policy is. You may find out that starting up a club is no problem and all you have to do is fill out application papers. You may need to take more time to explain the equal access law to your principal.

Positive relations with school officials never hurt. It’s good to keep your principal informed of your plans even if there’s no problem at all. If you run into any trouble, it’s usually because a school official doesn’t know the law. For this reason, you, as a Christian student, need to know your rights.

Presenting Your Case

If you are asked to present your case to school officials, be sure to prepare yourself with prayer, a positive attitude, and a realization that you are not alone in your desire for a Christian club on campus. There are students just like you across the country who also want to stand up for their faith and freedom of expression that is rightfully theirs.

We applaud you for taking the first steps to make a difference in your school! We have provided the following to help you go before school officials. Don’t worry ... God is on your side!

Make an appointment with your principal and keep it!

During the appointment it helps to be:

  1.  
Respectful rather than defensive.
     2. Gentle rather than combative. (See Peter 3:15.)
     3. Persistent rather than easily "put off."
     4. Knowledgeable rather than uninformed.

Be Prepared for Any Response

Your principal may say, "Sounds great! Go ahead!" then again, he or she may not. The following are some responses you may encounter:

  1.  
Denial
     2. Discouragement
     3. Discovery
     4. Delay

Denial

Your principal may say: "No, you may not start a Christian Club at this school."

If your group is student-led and student-initiated and there are other non-curriculum groups meeting in your school, your principal has violated the law by not giving you permission to form your club. Often this response is rooted in talk about separation of church and state or precedence of being forced to allow other less desirable groups to meet. The problem is usually a misunderstanding of the Equal Access ruling. You may even find yourself challenged to take the issue to court. If this happens, you must understand that when you win, the school system is liable for your court costs. Remember, the law was passed, challenged, and upheld in the Supreme Court!

Discouragement

Your principal may say: "Can’t you find somewhere else to do this?" "Religion is a personal thing, you don’t need to do it at school." "Can’t you do this at church on Sundays?" "You’ll have to get a sponsor, room permit, or pay a fee."

These are merely poor attempts to get you to change your mind. It is of high value for your group to meet on campus. Your friends are used to having club meetings at school. This familiarity, combined with the visibility that an on-campus group has, makes meeting at school the best option.

Discovery

Your principal may say: "Are you doing this because your youth group leader is pressuring you to do it?" "Who put you up to this?"

Your principal is really trying to find out if your group is actually being sponsored by an outside group or organization. If this were true, then the group would be in violation of the law and therefore it is justifiable to deny permission. You need to make it clear to your principal that your group is student-led and student-initiated.

Delay

Your principal may say: "I’ll have to check with the superintendent or district lawyer, etc. Let me think about it and get back to you."

Although there are legitimate reasons for a principal to investigate some of the implications of granting you permission to meet, often an administration will use this as a tactic to discourage your efforts. They hope that by dragging the decision out, you will lose interest. You need to be persistent in your efforts, while gently reminding your principal that you are waiting for his or her answer. Together determine a time when the decision will be made.

After Meeting With Your Principal

The next step is to determine which of the following responses are most appropriate for your situation:

IF you are told, "Go ahead, you have my permission."

Then choose and secure the day, place, and time. Fill out any and all necessary request forms. Advertise and promote your first meeting and impress upon your friends the importance of showing up. Plan the first meeting and end on time.

IF you are told, "You are denied permission."

Then draft a letter to the superintendent of your school stating your request and your understanding of the Equal Access Act. Ask for his or her intervention.

IF you are told, "I’ll think about it; talk to me next week."

Then be persistent! Continue to organize your friends’ involvement in the group while awaiting the answer. Ask people to pray for the decision!

IF you are asked, "Why can’t you just go to youth group at church or get involved in a Christian organization outside of school?"

Then tell them it is important for you to get together with your friends during school. Your main purpose is to form a club you have the right to form.

From Youth for Christ Call 800.735.3252 or visit www.cafereality.org


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