Students at Gloucester City (N.J.) Junior-Senior High School were spared participation in a church-hosted baccalaureate service, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FFRF was contacted by a complainant whose daughter was told that she could not opt out of the religious performance and that if she missed rehearsal or the ceremony, it would affect her grade. Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to Superintendent Paul Spaventa on June 11, two days before the service was scheduled: “No student should be forced to participate in the baccalaureate or suffer a failing or lower grade because they, in good conscience, cannot perform at a religious event.”
The school district’s solicitor replied on June 19, informing FFRF that after they received the letter, district personnel told all students that participation in the service was optional and that their grades would not be affected if they did not attend. He assured FFRF that “in the future a similar procedure will be used by the School District to ensure that only individuals who volunteer will participate in any type of Baccalaureate Service.”