The frequency of selected religious practices in Mississippi public schools and an assessment of the legal knowledge level of Mississippi public school superintendents concerning religious practices in public schools

Harold Wayne Barnett

Abstract

The purposes of the study were to: (a) determine the frequency of selected religious practices in Mississippi public schools; (b) determine the knowledge of Mississippi public school superintendents concerning religious practices in public schools; (c) examine the relationship between the knowledge and the variables of completion of a graduate school law course, level of academic degree, field of academic degree, class of license, type of school district, size of school district, superintendent type, and frequency of religious practices; and (d) provide information to Mississippi public school administrators to be used in the formulation of school board policies concerning religious practices. An analysis of the data collected from the responses of the responding public school superintendents led to the finding that Mississippi public school superintendents have limited knowledge of school law concerning religion in public schools. The data reported by responding superintendents indicated a mean percentage correct of 69.24 on the knowledge factors of equal access, observance of religious holidays, distribution of religious literature, and prayer and Bible reading in public schools. The data revealed that only 54% of the school districts in Mississippi have written board policies concerning religious practices and that many school districts allow unconstitutional religious practices. The data in this study also led to the finding that the superintendents' overall knowledge of school law did not differ according to type of district, completion of a course in school law, nor to the type of degree held by the superintendents.