Date of this Version
Nebraska Law Review (2000) 79: 922-928.
Suppose a public school requires all students in a certain grade to read a particular book or take part in a particular lesson that some parents object to on the basis of religious or other conscientious grounds. Should the school excuse the children of objecting parents from the required readings or lessons? Must the school grant the requested opt-out accommodation?
I believe the answer to the first question, which is a public policy issue, is that there are many good reasons for public schools to be liberal in accommodating religious and conscientious objections to required curricular materials and lessons. I also believe that the answer to the second question, which is a question of law, is that public schools in Nebraska have a legal duty to excuse students from required exposure to objectionable curriculum. Indeed, the Nebraska Constitution has long been interpreted by the Nebraska Supreme Court as protecting the right of parents to require public schools to excuse their children from any "prescribed branch" in the curriculum. The purpose of this article is to briefly address both the policy and the legal issues concerning the right of parents to protect their children from exposure to objectionable curriculum in Nebraska's public schools.