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General Information

Louisiana, like many other states, does not have specific laws regarding Released Time. As a result, a Released Time program in Louisiana 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.

Statutes

La. Stat. Ann. § 17:221
According to Louisiana compulsory attendance law, all children, ages 7-15 (inclusive), must attend a public or private school or participate in an approved home study program.

La. Stat. Ann. § 17:226
There is no specific statutory permission or authorization for Released Time programs in Louisiana. However, children are exempted from compulsory attendance, however, if their religious faith “requires absence for the observance of special and recognized holidays of the child’s own faith.” This may be applicable to an extent in allowing the operation of Released Time programs.

Regulation

October 7, 1982 Letter to the Avoyelles Parish
According to David Hamilton, the General Counsel of the State Board of Education, each local school board has the discretion to grant Released Time for purposes of religious instruction.

Position Paper on Released Time” prepared by David Hamilton and Gerald Cobb of the State Board of Education.
The State Board of Education believes it does have the authority, pursuant to Title 17, by regulation, to authorize Released Time programs in local school districts. The specifics of the program, including the days and hours of Released Time, are left to the local boards to work out with the particular sectarian groups wishing to offer religious instruction.

Attorney General Opinions

None

Case Law

None