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 court approved guideposts 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.
Miss. Code Ann. §37-13-91
(4) An “unlawful absence” is an absence for an entire school day or during part of a school day by a compulsory-school-age child, which absence is not due to a valid excuse for temporary nonattendance. For purposes of reporting absenteeism under subsection (6) of this section, if a compulsory-school-age child has an absence that is more than thirty-seven percent (37%) of the instructional day, as fixed by the school board for the school at which the compulsory-school-age child is enrolled, the child must be considered absent the entire school day. Days missed from school due to disciplinary suspension shall not be considered an “excused” absence under this section. This subsection shall not apply to children enrolled in a nonpublic school.
Each of the following shall constitute a valid excuse for temporary nonattendance of a compulsory-school-age child enrolled in a noncharter public school, provided satisfactory evidence of the excuse is provided to the superintendent of the school district, or his designee:
(g) An absence may be excused if the religion to which the compulsory-school-age child or the child's parents adheres, requires or suggests the observance of a religious event. The approval of the absence is within the discretion of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, but approval should be granted unless the religion's observance is of such duration as to interfere with the education of the child.