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For Professor Ronna Schneider Sabbatical Brings New Book Project Exploring Religion and Education


Like colleague Professor Bryant, Professor Ronna Schneider is back in the classroom this fall after a yearlong sabbatical.

It was not Schneider’s first time away from the classroom since joining the College of Law as an Assistant Professor in 1980.

During her previous sabbatical, Schneider – who became an Associate Professor in 1985 and then Professor of Law in 1987 – worked on finishing her two-volume treatise, “Education Law: First Amendment, Due Process, and Discrimination Litigation.”

One of the projects Schneider pursued during the last year was writing her annual update to the treatise. She also did a book review on a book about public education in Ireland.

Schneider’s main purpose for taking a sabbatical during the 2010-11 academic year, however, was to work on her own new book. “The book is looking at the role of religion in publicly funded education in several countries,” Schneider said. “The purpose of doing that is to take a look at the way a particular country treats that issue, and how it reflects the greater society’s attitude about religious pluralism.”

Schneider is, of course, exploring American education and the role of religion in American education, which have long been major focuses of her research and scholarship. To better understand how Americans deal with the constitutionally-imposed division between religion and public education in America (rooted in the Establishment Clause), Schneider is also analyzing the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – as well as the Republic of Ireland and Canada.

“The reason I selected all of those countries is because I think we consider ourselves like them on several grounds,” said Schneider, noting factors such as political and legal culture, strong educational values and the existence of some level of religious strife in each nation’s history.

“Nevertheless all of those countries are somewhat different in terms of the official role religion plays in society and publicly-funded education.”

Schneider, a Boston College Law School graduate, said the book “explores the whole role of religion in the public sphere, but as seen through the lens of education.”

“I think in this age of globalization, it’s time to look at what we can learn from the experiences of other countries, even though our constitutional and legal principles may differ or demand a different result,” she said.

The book project will be “a multi-year process,” for Schneider, who was primarily in Cincinnati during the sabbatical but did visit the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (established in October of 2009).

Schneider, who felt a “wonderful sense of renewal” from her sabbatical, “enthusiastically” returned to the classroom this fall to teach an Education Law Seminar. Of course, it has been a bit of an odd transition back for her, seeing that she is not teaching any 1Ls until the spring, and her Education Law Seminar course consists of predominantly 3Ls.

“It’s very strange to walk around a law school where I’m used to knowing 99 percent of the students,” laughed Schneider, who will teach Constitutional Law II and a First Amendment Seminar in the spring.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13