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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 19, 1999

                            December 18, 1999

In today's weekly radio address, the President will announce a comprehensive set of religious guidelines to be sent to every public school in America. The guidelines contain information for parents, teachers, and faith communities on religious expression and on partnerships between schools and faith-based organizations. They are the culmination of the Administration's four-year effort to forge consensus on the role of religion in the schools. Decrying the polarizing rhetoric that has long defined this issue, the President will note that public schools and faith communities share many values and goals. He will urge them both to use the new guidelines to forge partnerships that pass constitutional muster and that can benefit all our children.

NEW GUIDANCE FOR TEACHERS, PARENTS, VOLUNTEERS AND FAITH COMMUNITIES. In 1995, at President Clinton's direction, the Department of Education sent every district in the country Religion in the Public Schools: A Statement of Principles. The guidelines the President is announcing today build upon those principles and encourage greater cooperation, within constitutional limits, between public schools and faith-based organizations. The guidelines will be mailed to every public school in the nation, and to leading religious organizations as well. The mailing is a joint effort of the Department of Education and the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center. The six publications in the packet are:

Religion in the Public Schools: A Statement of Principles A Parents Guide to Religion in the Public Schools A Teacher Guide to Religion in the Public Schools Public Schools and Religious Communities: A First Amendment Guide Guidelines for Volunteers Participating in Partnerships with Public Schools
How Faith Communities Support Children's Learning in Public Schools

PACKET HIGHLIGHTS HOW FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS CAN SUPPORT LEARNING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Faith-based organizations can and are playing an effective role in helping boost student learning and school success. The President today will argue that schools and faith communities should be reaching out to each other, in constitutional ways, to support their common goals for children and families. He will emphasize that schools should not be religion-free zones. The guidelines he is announcing highlight successful partnerships across the nation in after-school programs, school safety, discipline and student literacy. These range from mentoring programs jointly run by schools and interfaith groups to statewide summits on the role of faith-based groups in college preparation. Throughout, the guidelines emphasize both the protection of private religious expression in schools and the prohibitions against coerced student participation in religious expression.

ENDORSEMENTS BY EDUCATION, RELIGIOUS, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS DEMONSTRATE EMERGING CONSENSUS. The guidance released today has been endorsed by a broad spectrum of organizations, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the National PTA, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, The American Association of School Administrators and other faith-based and educational associations. The President today will characterize these endorsements as a sign of an emerging consensus on the role of religion in schools. He will also call on political leaders to resist the polarizing language of debates past and instead to help find common ground for appropriate collaborations between schools and faith communities.