There is no solution that will allow students to stay in music classes and completely respect their families’ religious beliefs. There are still a few ways that we can do our best to provide equitable opportunities for our students.
One option is to create a completely written, self-guided, content-appropriate music curriculum that a student could complete outside of the typical music classroom. This would be suitable for upper grades, but could be very difficult for K-2 as they are still learning to read. It could focus on music history and theory, allowing for exploration of most of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) standards without the performance and interaction aspects. I think this would be best implemented through a web-based program or a series of online activities. Finding the funds and time to create such a curriculum would be difficult. However it would provide musical content that meets the state requirements for general music in elementary school.
Another solution would be to discuss what music classes in elementary school are with the community. This could start with an e-mail at the beginning of the school year through Skyward (which can translate e-mails into other languages) about why we have a music program and how content is addressed in it. Next, we would invite parents to attend a forum to clarify and correct misconceptions about what music classes cover. This would hopefully include leaders of the religious communities in the district, music staff, administrators, and interpreters to provide full explanations to parents. The forum would be recorded and uploaded to the school’s website so that parents who cannot attend can still learn about the program. Below is a quick example of what a typical kindergarten music class does. Something like this could be shared to help alleviate parents’ worries.
For families who were unable to attend and do not have the time to watch the forum, a FAQ could be sent out via Remind (which also translates your messages for you) to provide more information. Remind is a communication tool for educators and parents that is like text messaging but does not require the educator to give out their personal number.
While this is a multi-pronged approach it does not address every issue brought up in the survey. Families who believe that their students should not perform music at all will still ask to have their students removed. Additionally translation programs are not perfect and there could be more misunderstandings created than solved. A combination of the two solutions I suggested may be best at this time, but would require a lot of preparation, funds, and teamwork.