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General Information

Maine state law gives each local school unit the option of permitting students to participate in Released Time. Students may be released for up to one hour per week.

In addition, any Released Time program 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. However, with community support, a carefully researched approach, and a proposal consistent with state law, you should expect success in gaining approval for the program.

Statutes

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 20-A, § 5001-A
According to Maine compulsory attendance law, all children, ages 7-17 (inclusive) must attend public school or a private school which offers “equivalent instruction.”

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 20, § 1224-A
“Public school students who participate in a course of moral instruction or a religious observance at their place of worship or other suitable place may be granted release time for the period actually spent on that instruction or observance, up to a maximum of one hour per week. The granting of release time shall be at the option of the local school unit and shall not result in any additional cost to the local school unit. Release time shall be granted in accordance with policies established by the local school unit.”

 Regulation

None

Attorney General Opinions

None