In Trefelner v. Burrell School District, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a temporary restraining order to compel a school district to permit a parochial school student to participate in extracurricular activities offered by the school district, including marching and jazz bands. Pennsylvania’s Public School Code (“School Code”) permits home schooled students or, in certain situations, students who attend charter schools to participate in extracurricular activities offered by their school district of residence.
In Trefelner, the Court analyzed the student’s claim under the Free Exercise Clause framework. The Court found given the secular exemptions created by the School Code and the lack of similar religious exemptions, the student may be able to demonstrate that the school district’s extracurricular activity policy was not neutral and that it was not narrowly tailored to advance compelling interests. The Court issued a temporary restraining order. While Trefelner was ultimately settled by agreement between student and the school district, the issuance by the Court of the temporary restraining order indicates that courts may be willing to consider participation in public school activities by parochial school students.
If your school district requires assistance updating its extracurricular activities policy or addressing issues relating to the participation in extracurricular activities by home schooled, charter school, or other students, please contact Amanda Sundquist.