Guidelines for Faith Based Partnerships

Partnerships between our schools and faith communities are welcome.

Fairfax County Public Schools treats faith based partnerships the same as any other partnerships except that we provide specific considerations related to the potential for proselytizing. For all partnerships we recommend that specific discussions take place between the partnering entities. 

Consider the following when creating a public school and faith community partnership program:

  1. Jointly determine and define objectives and goals which are agreed to in writing.
  2. Identify, define, and agree to, in writing, program expectations and scope to include timelines, specific activities, and methods employed to conduct activities.
  3. Execute measures to ensure staff and volunteers understand and agree to implement program objectives, goals, expectations, and scope as identified and defined.
  4. Develop and conduct training for both the public school and faith community staffs and volunteers on the application of program expectations and the implementation of activities.
  5. Parental permission must be granted for participation in a partnership program.
  6. Provide programs for which a student’s participation is voluntary. Students’ school performance measurement will not be based on whether or not they participate in a partnership program.
  7. Allow and make reasonable accommodations for a student’s religious and cultural requirements.
  8. Do not require students to participate in an activity which is restricted by their religion.
  9. Do not distribute religious materials to students.
  10. If conducted in a faith community facility, make certain that religious programs do not occur simultaneously in the same space in which partnership activities are being conducted.
  11. Develop a communication process to effectively exchange information and foster open dialogue between the principle representatives of the faith community and the public school partnership.

Things to Do:

  • Make sure the program has a secular purpose.
  • In selecting partners remain neutral between secular and religious groups and among religious groups.
  • Select student participants without regard to the religious affiliation of the students.
  • Make sure any jointly sponsored activities provided within the partnership program, wherever located, are purely secular.
  • Make sure any space used for the program is safe and secure for the children.
  • Make sure any space used by the public school for instructional purposes is free of religious symbols.
  • Put the partnership agreement in writing.

Things Not to Do:

  • Do not limit participation in the partnership, or student selection, to religious groups or certain religious groups.
  • Do not encourage or discourage student participation with particular partners based on the religious or secular nature of the organization.
  • Do not encourage or discourage students from engaging in religious activities.
  • Do not condition student participation in any partnership activity on membership in any religious group, or on acceptance or rejection of any religious belief, or on participation in, or refusal to participate in, any religious activity.
  • Do not reward or punish students (for example, in terms of grades or participation in other activities) based on their willingness to participate in any activity of a partnership with a religious organization.

Volunteers Need To Be Reminded:

Volunteers always need to be thanked for their willingness to volunteer their time to help children learn. At the same time, it is very important to remind volunteers from faith communities that the purpose of any partnership is educational and secular in nature, not religious, and that volunteers must respect the very strong First Amendment rights of students. Remind volunteers:

  • Do not pray with the students and families or encourage them to pray during your volunteer session with them.
  • Do not preach about your faith to the children and their families while conducting your educational activity.
  • Do not prohibit or discourage speech or other activity simply because of its religious content or nature.
  • Do not infringe on the rights of students and their family members to speak about religion or to say a prayer or to read a Scripture, provided it is within the reasonable limits of rules for orderliness, talking, and congregating that are set for other speech and activities.

To ensure students’ religious freedom and participation in activities in school or in school supported programs outside the school facility, it is important that structures are in place to protect these basic rights. As schools and faith communities develop partnership programs, the development of written agreements or memorandums of understanding can and should clearly establish the program parameters and how they will be implemented.

If you have additional questions related to faith based partnerships in FCPS please contact:

Jay Garant, Director
Business and Community Partnerships
FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations

If you have questions about interfaith issues in Fairfax County, please contact:

Suzette Reynolds, Interfaith Coordinator [email protected]
Department of Neighborhood & Community Services, Community Impact Unit
12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 405
Fairfax, VA 22035


First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


The information and links are to help school partners and our community’s faith based organizations work more effectively. We recommend that partners make themselves familiar with the FCPS policy and regulations related to religion and that they use the linked guidelines.

Children and schools gain a great deal when every part of a community comes together to support their education. Partnerships between our local schools and local faith communities are welcome. These partnerships can support existing public school programs or programs conducted by a faith community in a public school or in a faith community facility after school hours.

The structure and implementation of public school and faith community partnership programs must allow for religion to be treated with fairness and respect. A partnership program can neither foster religion nor preclude it. At all times a student’s religious expression and freedom of conscience must be vigorously protected regardless of the physical location of the program. Public schools forming partnerships including faith-based communities should consider and adhere to the following from U.S. Department of Education when developing and supporting such activities.