1 - Such a perception is flawed.
Such perception is shared by all the students I personally know.
Such course would provide children with basic foundation of Orthodoxy such as the purpose of Liturgy, so they would not be simply standing in the church bored but instead would be more intrigued in finding more things about their faith. I know this for a fact. Once a week (during the Sunday school) is not often enough...at the same time I don't think that there is a need to burden children with too much, but step by step children will have a better appreciation of what they are doing and not just following what their parents tell them to do. You don't want children to be bored but instead to engage in worship. Orthodox classes are not just classes but are in coherence with a more practical approach of the theoretical side of faith. Children would not just pray but but understand why and how.
I know nothing about American education system but I really doubt any school will allow and pay for a class that won't meet any of the formal requirements like other classes have.
1 - I am very sorry to hear that. Is their explanation of why they don't like RE same as your - comparison to science and algebra? Thanks for your input. Is there any form of RE that would be acceptable for you?
2 - I think you are right about the classes being accepted. Perhaps something can be done about it.
American public schools, from what I have seen locally, are letting teachers of subjects like art and music go due to budget problems. If there is money it seems to go to sports. In fact, the entire high school schedule is set to allow for football practice, which is why high school classes begin early in the morning when teenagers are least able to learn anything.
There has long been a debate as to whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in the classroom. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower added the words 'under God' to the Pledge. It goes as follows, if you're not familiar with it: I pledge my allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Children were to stand each morning, with hand over heart, facing the flag, and recite the Pledge. This is not acceptable to many people, most notably in the Supreme Court cases, to Jehovah Witnesses and atheists. There are arguments over any type of Christianity being taught in schools, due to the Establishment (of religion) clause in the Constitution. Any type of reference to God in a state environment is being fought. Some have even tried to get the words "In God We Trust" removed from US currency. World religions may be taught as general education, but serious religious education cannot be taught in a state funded school, and even if it were being taught, it would likely not be Orthodoxy, but some type of Evangelical Protestantism. There is more tolerance for teaching Islam than for Christianity in many areas. Some of this is spill over from the political climate of the country. There are also debates about teaching evolution, and something called 'creation theory' or something.
Private schools can teach religion, but the parents have to pay for the education. The Ku Klux Klan and the Freemasons tried to shut down private schools years ago, actually infiltrated state government to pass a law against them, because back in those days private school meant Catholic school, and they didn't like Catholics. When there weren't and black people or Asian people to pick on, they would pick on Catholics. There was no real Orthodox presence in any numbers across the nation. The Catholics fought back through the courts and otherwise at more personal, local levels, winning a great freedom for people against religious persecution in this country.
I know of only one pan-Orthodox grade school for children in the US, situated in a parish, that teaches Greek, etc. It is very small.