Rockville, MD

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) policy requires high schools to hold graduations at secular venues. AU learned that students at Montgomery Blair High School had received a survey asking them to rank five potential graduation venues, one of which was a large church. The survey emphasized the amenities of the church and made it appear more desirable than the four secular options. AU wrote to the school district to explain that holding public-school graduations in a church is unconstitutional, and to support MCPS’s current policy. We further cautioned that a school-sponsored referendum on whether to hold graduation in a church is an independent constitutional violation. The district responded and informed us that the survey had been created by the school’s parent-teacher organization rather than by school officials. The Superintendent assured us that the district and the school would abide by the current policy and, as we requested, would formulate a plan to inform parents and students who had received the survey that MCPS high schools would not consider the church as a graduation option. AU has previously addressed similar issues with MCPS in 2005 and 2007.