Are Released Time Programs Legal?
Released Time is not a violation of the judicial doctrine of separation of Church and State. In fact, Released Time honors that principle by providing for a diversity of beliefs, affording schools protection from charges of a state-established religion, and protecting students’ and parents’ rights to the free exercise of religion.Parental permission for student participation has been given, Program instruction takes place off school grounds, and No state or taxpayer funding is used. For specific guidelines applicable to your area, please see our State-by-State Released Time laws.
Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that schools are legally permitted to dismiss students to participate in a Released Time program during the school day so long as:
- Parental permission for student participation has been given,
- Program instruction takes place off school grounds, and
- No state or taxpayer funding is used.
For specific guidelines applicable to your area, please see our State-by-State Released Time laws.
To learn more about Released Time legalities and how programs operate, see the questions and answers below.
- Improved academic performance
- Improved involvement and development in school and the community;
- Improved relationships with family and friends;
- Stronger self-confidence and regard for others;
- Reduction in risk-taking behavior;
- Positive coping skills for a variety of life situations; and,
- A stronger understanding of life and greater self-purpose.
Released Time programs are funded exclusively by private donations from churches, religious organizations, and individual donations. A Released Time program does not receive any government funding from the school for operation.
Must a parent give permission for a student to attend?
Yes. Parents and guardians are required to sign permission forms provided by the local Released Time program for their child to participate. This is necessary for the school to know which students it may legally dismiss to attend the Released Time classes.
Who handles transportation?
Transportation to and from a Released Time Program must be coordinated by the parent/guardian, or by the organizers of the Released Time program. Released Time programs can use their own buses or even rent school buses, which are often available for rent by community groups.
What will my kids be taught?
Released Time programs are designed as religious education to teach the religious beliefs and practices of the religion of the sponsoring program. Some programs may also choose to teach specific doctrines or beliefs of a specific church or denomination. The programs are responsible for selecting curriculum and implementing the instruction.
Will Released Time classes interfere with the school day?
Typically, Released Time classes are scheduled for times during which other electives are offered. School officials often cooperate with the Released Time organizers to find times that will cause the least amount of interference with the school’s instructional programs. Thus, Released Time classes rarely interfere with mandatory school instruction or afterschool activities.