Education faculty and alumni assemble a scholarly exploration on the First Amendment in U.S. public schools

Lisa Buchanan, associate professor of education, has coedited "Religion, the First Amendment, and Public Schools: Stories from K-12 and Teacher Education Classrooms," published by Information Age Publishing.

Lisa Buchanan, associate professor in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education, has published an impactful co-edited book, “Religion, the First Amendment, and Public Schools: Stories from K-12 and Teacher Education Classrooms.”

The cover of “Religion, the First Amendment, and Public Schools: Stories from K-12 and Teacher Education Classrooms”

The edited volume is published by Information Age Publishing. Coeditors include Aaron Bodle from James Madison University; Elizabeth E. Saylor from University of Georgia; Elizabeth Bellows from Appalachian State University; and Sohyun An from Kennesaw State University. Primarily crafted for PK-12 teachers and teacher educators, this edited collection unfolds across three enthralling sections. Part one delves into theory, research and law; part two immerses readers in stories from K-12 schools; and part three unfolds vivid narratives from the teacher education classroom.

The edited book is a culminating project that began in 2020 when the five visionary faculty members conducted two research studies on the understanding of teacher candidates of the First Amendment and its implications for public schooling. Through conference presentations and sustained collaboration with peers in social studies education, the editors discovered a nationwide misunderstanding and violation of freedom of religion. Notably, teachers were found to lack crucial content knowledge regarding the legal implications of the Establishment Clause and frequently misconstrued practical methods to infuse religious literacy into the classroom.

The book also showcases contributions from other adept scholars within the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education. Part two, for instance, houses a thought-provoking chapter by Nermin Vehabovic, assistant professor of education, titled “Pulling Apart the Sides of Islam and Phobia: Children’s Literature as Opportunities for Engaging With Sociophobic Reactions.”

Meanwhile, part three presents a compelling chapter co-authored by Buchanan alongside two Elon M.Ed. graduates, Ana Herrera Castillo G’23 and Hannah Wilpon G’23. Titled “The Complexities Around Religious Freedom, Positionalities, and K–12 Schools: A Narrative Self-Study of International and U.S. Teachers,” this chapter enriches the volume with insightful perspectives on the intricate intersections of religious freedom in the educational landscape.

As educators navigate the complexities of teaching and learning in today’s world, this compelling work leverages the power of story to animate the dangerous legal and cultural assault on the separation of church and state in U.S. public schools. Additionally, the authors offer practical resources for responding to enemies of religious freedom, white Christian nationalism and xenophobia as it is manifested in policy and practice within K-12 and higher education.