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General Information

Illinois, like many other states, does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. As a result, a Released Time program in Illinois 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 guidepost for Released Time programs provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) and Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952). These guideposts 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, encouragement, or discouragement 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.

Statutes

105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/26-1
Children are required to attend public, private, or parochial school “between the ages of 6 (on or before September 1) and 17 years (unless the child has already graduated from high school).

Under §5/26-1(4), any child over 12 and under 14 years of age may be excused from compulsory attendance requirements while attending confirmation classes. Since confirmation classes are offered at the child’s church and involve religious instruction, this statute could be used to uphold certain types of Released Time programs for this specific age group.

Regulations

None

Attorney General Opinions

None

Case Law

Latimer v. Board of Education, 68 N.E. 2d 305 (1946)
In Latimer, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Board of Education of Chicago practice of excusing public school pupils for the purpose of attending religious educational classes at places away from school property. The Court held that this particular Released Time plan did not violate constitutional prohibitions relating to the establishment or free exercise of religion or the use of public funds in aid of any church or sectarian purpose.
Ever since this decision, the Superintendent of schools may excuse public school children, at the request of their parents, for one hour each week for the purpose of attending religious classes as long as the instruction is not given on school property or by public school teachers.