Release-time for Religious Instruction : Public High School Administrators' Attitudes And Perceptions
Washington State University
The purpose of this study was to explore public high school administrators' attitudes and perceptions of release-time religious instruction in seminaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in one western state. Consistent with the purpose, this study employed qualitative research design and methods. Qualitative interviewing was the primary means of data collection. Questions that guided the study include: What are public high school administrators' attitudes and perceptions regarding LDS release-time? What works well in this arrangement from their point of view? What does not work well in this arrangement? Public high school administrators from 15 sites participated in this study conducted in two phases over a two year period. Analysis of data employed a "constant-comparative" process that resulted in the principle of separation of church and state as the emergent central theme. This principle makes it necessary for religious groups that want daytime religious instruction for youth to establish programs like release-time; at the same time, the principle of separation of church and state allows for the legality of such arrangements. Phase one determined that LDS release-time religious instruction works well in the public high school setting, while phase two explored hwy it works well. It was determined that the central theme of the principle of separation of church and state is manifested in three ways: (a) In community negotiation allowing release-time seminary, (b) in the fact that release-time religious instruction works at all and how it works, and (c) in ways the school attempts to keep the relationship quiet and out of public view or separate. This study is significant in that it contributes substantive knowledge of LDS release-time religious instruction from the perspective of the public high school administrator. Conclusions and implications resulting from this study may be useful to public and religious educators as they consider policies and practices regarding release-time religious instruction in facilities adjacent to public schools. The results of this study may also provide helpful insights to families whose youth enroll in LDS seminary, and perhaps provide a model of release-time religious instruction useful to other religious denominations.