Should San Diego Schools Students Pray?

The San Diego Schools were put in the national spotlight this past July when it was revealed that Carver Elementary Schools was allowing Muslim students a 15 minute timeframe to pray. Carver has recently acquired about 100 Muslim students from a San Diego Schools charter school that closed. Even so, this revelation created uproar on the ever popular subject of prayer in school.

There are a few schools of thought on this subject. One camp feels that religion shouldn’t have any place in federally funded education of San Diego Schools. Another side feels that you can allow prayer in school, but it needs to be an equal time scenario. The problem with the San Diego School District trying to account for equal time is part of the problem. It’s a part of the Muslim religion to pray at specific times each day. Unfortunately for some, those times coincide with the San Diego Schools class schedule. On one hand, Carver elementary was being aware of the fact that its population had shifted significantly, and they were trying to be respectful of those student’s religious beliefs. But is it right or fair for the schools day to come to a complete halt to accommodate the needs of a specific religious group?

Actually, the San Diego Schools has done this for decades. The school calendar is set up to allow for vacations that accommodate the Christian religious holidays of Christmas and Easter. Of course, this doesn’t involve stopping school each day. But the San Diego Schools need to come to an awareness that with changing populations come some complicated decisions.

Ideally school and religion need to be separated. With the exception of religious schools that have a mission to provide education a child’s spiritual or religious education, the San Diego Schools would be best served by keeping the two entities separate. Prayer is a quiet and personal act that really doesn’t involve a lot of fanfare. The idea that we have laws either allowing or outlawing prayer is ludicrous. If children in the San Diego Schools want to pray quietly between classes, then it’s now one else’s business. And if some one hears you praying and it offends them- oh well, welcome to life. But classroom time focused on a curriculum of instruction needs to be separate for several reasons.

The students in San Diego Schools need to focus on school when they’re in school. A solid foundation in language, math and science is necessary to form the critical thinking and problem solving skills that children needs to understand the difference between religion, spirituality, and blind faith.

But what about those Muslim students in the San Diego Schools? To prevent them from practicing a principle tenet of their religion seems oppressive. Do the San Diego Schools really want to send a message that the students are unwelcome because of their faith? Assuming that the answer is no, I recommend that Carver Elementary continue to do exactly what they’re doing. Even though I’d love to see a clean dividing line between the school day and worship, it’s not reality. The best thing is for the San Diego Schools to make accommodations that are necessary for the dignity and respect of its students. And in this instance, no one really loses out. That 15 minutes can be used as study time for other students. And if there can be a solutions where everyone wins, let’s take it.

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