2010 Tennessee Code
Title 49 - Education
Chapter 6 - Elementary and Secondary Education
Part 29 - Tennessee Student Religious Liberty Act of 1997
49-6-2904 - Rights of students.

49-6-2904. Rights of students.

(a)  A student shall have the right to carry out an activity described in any of subdivisions (b)(1)-(4), if the student does not:

     (1)  Infringe on the rights of the school to:

          (A)  Maintain order and discipline;

          (B)  Prevent disruption of the educational process; and

          (C)  Determine educational curriculum and assignments;

     (2)  Harass other persons or coerce other persons to participate in the activity; or

     (3)  Otherwise infringe on the rights of other persons.

(b)  Subject to subsection (a), a student shall be permitted to voluntarily:

     (1)  Pray in a public school, vocally or silently, alone or with other students to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to vocally or silently reflect, meditate or speak on nonreligious matters alone or with other students in the public school;

     (2)  Express religious viewpoints in a public school to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to express viewpoints on nonreligious topics or subjects in the school;

     (3)  Speak to and attempt to share religious viewpoints with other students in a public school to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to speak to and attempt to share nonreligious viewpoints with other students;

     (4)  Possess or distribute religious literature in a public school, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to possess or distribute literature on nonreligious topics or subjects in the school; and

     (5)  Be absent, in accordance with LEA attendance policy, from a public school to observe religious holidays and participate in other religious practices to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to be absent from a public school for nonreligious purposes.

(c)  No action may be maintained pursuant to this part unless the student has exhausted the following administrative remedies:

     (1)  The student or the student's parent or guardian shall state their complaint to the school's principal;

     (2)  If the concerns are not resolved, then the student or the student's parent or guardian shall make complaint in writing to the director of schools with the specific facts of the alleged violation;

     (3)  The director of schools shall investigate and take appropriate action to ensure the rights of the student are resolved within thirty (30) days of receiving the written complaint; and

     (4)  Only after the director of schools' investigation and action may a student or the student's parent or guardian pursue any other legal action pursuant to this part.

(d)  If a right of a student established under this section is violated by a public school, the student may assert the violation as a cause of action or a defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against the public school. The action shall be brought in the circuit or chancery court where the violation occurred or where the student resides. Standing to assert a cause of action or defense under this section shall be governed by the Tennessee rules of civil procedure and common law interpretations of those rules.

(e)  A student prevailing in a claim brought against a public school for a violation of this section or an action brought by a public school against a student for conduct covered by this section shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees, court costs and the cost of bringing or defending the action.

[Acts 1997, ch. 422, § 1.]  

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