To stop the defamation of the Jewish people... to secure justice and fair treatment to all
Anti-Defamation League ABOUT ADL FIND YOUR LOCAL ADL DONATE CONTACT US PRESS CENTER
Introduction
Background: Religious Liberty in America
Prayer in Public School
Religion in the Curriculum
Evolution vs. Creationism
Teaching About Religious Holidays
Religious Displays on School Property
Released Time Programs
Student Religious Clubs
Use of School Facilities by Outside Religious Organizations and Clubs
Distribution of Religious Materials by Students
Distribution of Religious Material and Proselytizing by Non-school Personnel
Dress Codes
Teachers' Religious Expression
ADL Can Help
Education  
Religion in the Public Schools RULE
Dress Codes

General Rule: Courts generally find that dress codes which prohibit the wearing of religious attire or symbols are not a valid means of achieving discipline when weighed against students' rights to religious freedom and free speech.

How do courts review dress codes that restrict the wearing of religious attire or symbols?
State regulations or school district regulations such as dress codes that affect students' rights to religious expression are subject to a more rigorous standard of judicial review than regulations that do not affect such freedoms. For example, a school dress code restricting hair-length of male students, which might otherwise be permitted, is not a valid means of achieving discipline when weighed against the religious beliefs of Native American students. 79 Moreover, mere speculation about the possible disruptive effects of a student's dress is not sufficient to overcome students' right to freedom of expression. As a general matter, school disciplinary rules need not be highly detailed. However, when those rules implicate students' rights to religious expression, courts require a higher degree of specificity.

Notably, religious messages on T-shirts and the like may not be singled out for suppression. Students may wear religious attire, such as yarmulkes and head scarves, and they may not be forced to wear gym clothes that they regard, on religious grounds, as immodest. 80

Can schools ban the wearing of religious symbols in an effort to stop gang violence? A ban on gang-related attire cannot restrict the wearing of religious symbols and will not be upheld where there is no evidence of disruption that justifies infringement on students' religiously motivated symbolic speech. 81 In general, gang-related prohibitions on dress have not faired well in the Courts. 82 Indeed, they have been held to be void for vagueness in a number of circumstances. 83

Sample Scenario:

    Jewish Student Wearing Star of David is Suspended for Violating Dress Code
    In recent years, North High School has experienced a rise in student violence. Some of the fights between students have been accompanied by religious slurs. As a preventative measure, the school board passes a rule prohibiting students from wearing "religious symbols" to school. Anne, a Jewish student, is suspended for wearing a Star of David necklace. She appeals her suspension.

    Can the school enforce Anne's suspension?
    No. The school board does not appear to have sufficient evidence to show that the violence in the school is due to students wearing religious symbols. Without a causal connection, the school's interest in preventing violence does not justify infringing on Anne's religious symbolic expression.

Home | Search | About ADL | Donate | Contact ADL | Privacy Policy |
| Update Your E-mail Preferences |

Help support our work by sending your tax deductible gift to:
ADL, 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158, Attn: Development.

To speak to an ADL professional about giving opportunities
Please call 866-FUND-ADL or 866-386-3235
We thank you for your support

© 2013 Anti-Defamation League. All rights reserved. The Anti-Defamation League is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).