Alaska, like many other states, does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. As a result, a Released Time program in Alaska would need to obtain permission from the local school board for students to participate in the program.
It would also need to ensure compliance with the court approved guidepost for Released Time programs. These include:
1) The school cannot fund the Released Time program, other than de minimis administrative costs (such as the costs of a school board approving a local Released Time policy).
2) Released Time programs cannot take place on school premises; and
3) Student participation in Released Time programs must be voluntary. There cannot be any coercion on the part of any school official.
However, these three points are not exclusive. One should conduct thorough research on the latest state and federal laws and court decisions to determine if there are any updated guidelines for a Released Time program to follow.
Keep in mind that school officials are not required to approve a program. An organization that wishes to start a new program should determine who in the school district can authorize a program and make an appointment to see that person. If the principal refers the organization to the school board, it would be wise to meet individually with school board members before presenting the concept at a meeting of the whole board.
The following are exemptions in Alaska state law that may potentially be used to permit a child to attend a released-time program:
- At a regularly scheduled school board meeting, the school board or the superintendent with approval of the school board excuses a student from attendance at the public school. Alaska Stat. § 14.30.010(b)(8); or
Parents make a written request to the principal or administrator of the public school for their child to attend a program in which the child will be “equally well-served by an education experience approved by the school board as serving the child’s educational interests despite an absence from school.” Alaska Stat. § 14.30.010(b)(11).
1993 Alaska Op. Att’y Gen. No. 663-93-0394
I. Under Current Laws, May Public Schools Enroll Private School Students On A Part-Time Basis?
“In our opinion, however, part-time enrollment would not violate [the Establishment] clause. The enrollment would have a secular purpose, it would not advance or inhibit religion, and it would not foster excessive government entanglement with religion.”
Newdow v. Rio Linda Union Sch. Dist., 597 F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2010).
In Newdow., the 9th Circuit referenced Zorach v. Clauson, describing it as a case “in which school children were allowed to be excused from public schools for religious observances and education.” Id. At 1026.
Other court decisions by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have referenced Zorach in a similar manner. See e.g., Prince v. Jacoby, 303 F.3d 1074, 1099 (9th Cir. 2002) (stating that Zorach upheld “release time program where religious classes were not held on school property and there was no indication that the public schools enforced attendance at religious schools by punishing absentees from the released time programs for truancy.” (internal quotations omitted)); Cammack v. Waihee, No. 87-15073, 1991 U.S. App. LEXIS 18115 at *38 (9th Cir. Aug. 9, 1991) (stating that in Zorach, “the Court rejected an establishment clause challenge to a program whereby public schools released students for a limited time for off-campus religious instruction”); Collins v. Chandler Unified School Dist. 644 F.2d 759, 761 (9th Cir. 1981) (stating that in Zorach, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “releasing students to attend religious activities off school grounds [is] constitutionally valid”).
*The rulings of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals are binding precedent in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.