Mississippi, like many other states, does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. As a result, a Released Time program in Mississippi 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.
Miss. Code Ann. §37-13-91
Mississippi compulsory attendance law requires that all children, ages 6-16 (inclusive), must attend public school or non-public school which includes private, parochial, church, and home schools.
Though there is no express statute allowing or prohibiting Released Time programs, Section 37-13-91 does allow excused absences for observances of religious events at the discretion of the school district.
Attorney General Opinions