A long time ago, children got into trouble for chewing gum or skipping down the hallway—but not now.  Today it is much more serious -- drugs, murder, sexual assault and other serious violent felonies.  Today children are reaching out—no, screaming out for help.  Released Time education pays off in that students have more self respect, better behavior at school and at home,  and improved academic performance.

David Beasley, Former Governor of South Carolina

New York

Updated August 2018  
SUMMARY for New York
General Information

The first step is to gather as much information as you can about New York's Released Time statute and regulation, which require all schools to permit students to be excused to participate in religious instruction if requested in writing by the student’s parents or guardians. You should also explore which nearby school systems have Released Time classes and what their standard schedule and operating procedures are. Finally, you should schedule a meeting with the superintendent to discuss your program and the schedule for when the school will release students for participation.


Department of Education Website New York State Education Department

Website: http://www.nysed.gov/

New York City Department of Education

Website: http://schools.nyc.gov/default.htm


DETAILS for New York
Statutes New York compulsory attendance law requires that all children, ages 6-15 (inclusive), must attend public school "or elsewhere." N.Y. EDUC. LAW § 3210 (2013)

§3210 (b) permits public school students to be absent in order to attend religious instruction or observance. All such Released Time excuses and programs are governed by the rules that the Commissioner of Education will establish.


Regulations NYCRR 109.2 (New York Commissioner's Revised Regulations)

A student will be excused from school during school hours for religious education upon a request in writing signed by the student's parents [NYCRR 109.2 (a)]. Such religious instruction must be given off of the public school grounds and be operated under the control of "duly constituted religious bodies: [NYCRR 109.2 (b)]. Students, in addition, must be registered for the religious courses and a copy of the registration and attendance record must be filed with the local public school authorities [NYCRR 109.2 (c (d)].

A local board of education shall permit students to be released for not more than one hour a week while school is in session at a time set by the local school authorities. [NYCRR 109.2 (e)].

A board of education may also establish an optional program for high school students in order (grades 9-12) to permit a student, with the written approval of parent, to enroll in a course in religion in a registered non-public high school [NYCRR 109.2 (f)]. Absence to attend such a course may be excused for the number of periods per week that the course is scheduled in the nonpublic school.


A program for religious instruction may be initiated by any religious organization in cooperation with the parents concerned. There will be, however, no announcement of any kind in the public school concerning the Released Time program. Each religious organization will issue a card to a student to be countersigned by the parent and addressed to the principal of the public school, requesting the release of the student from school for the purpose of religious instruction at a specific location.

A student is to be released for the last hour of the instructional day each week to receive religious instruction - this hour is generally 2:00 p.m. The day upon which Released Time is permitted for all boroughs is Wednesday.

For specific reporting requirements of the public schools concerning Released Time programs see Chancellor's regulation A-631 (8/17/81).


Case Law

1) Lewis v. Graves 156 N.E. 663 (1927) A White Plains Released Time program was upheld as valid under the N.Y. Constitutional provision prohibiting funding of religious schools and under the general attendance statute. The White Plains plan allowed students to be excused during the last half hour of the day, once each week. Written consent of parents was required; and no public funds were used to implement the program. At the time, no Released Time statutes or regulations had been enacted.

2) Lewis v. Spaulding 85 NYS 2d 582 (1948)

The New York city Released Time program, similar to the current NYC plan, was held to be valid. The NYC plan in contrast to the Champaign, Illinois plan struck down in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, was ruled to be constitutional and not in violation of the First Amendment prohibiting the making of any law respecting the establishment of religion.

The constitutionality of each Released Time program, however, must be tested by the factual aspects of the particular programs under scrutiny.



66 St. Dept. 8 (1945)

In one district, 160 students received religious instruction on public school property, sometimes in the same room as non-participating students. The Commissioner wrote that school building should not be used for religious instruction. Students should be excused to receive religious education away from public school grounds.

Case Law

3) Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952)

This case is virtually identical in its facts to Lewis v. Spaulding, Supra. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that McCollum, supra, was not an absolute ban on Released Time education, and that the NYC Released Time program is constitutional. The New York program was different from the McCollum Released Time program in three ways:

1) No religious instruction took place on public school property. 2) No public funds were expended to finance the Released Time programs. 3) No promotion or involvement of public school teacher in the Released Time program.

Zorach is currently considered the standard by which Released Time programs in all states are judged.

4)Pierce ex rel. Pierce v. Sullivan West Central School Dist., 379 F.3d 56, 191 Ed. Law Rep. 36 (2d Cir. 2004).

New York's Education Law provision allowing "released time" from public schools for religious instruction did not violate Establishment Clause as implemented by school district, using no public funds and involving no on-site religious instruction; program was purely voluntary and there was no specific coercion or pressure brought to bear on non-participants by school officials.