I believe that (Released Time) is the greatest mission that is taking place in our community—reaching out to youths at an impressionable age and giving them a firm foundation for life.  I believe that training young people to live Christian lives will pay huge dividends for our state and nation in the future.  There is no better investment of our time and energy.


Leland Burch, Retired businessman and member of local Released Time Board

Wisconsin

Updated July 2009  
SUMMARY for Wisconsin
General Information Because of the wording in the Wisconsin statute, Released time programs are relatively easy to implement. The approach must be carefully crafted and the program must be well-planned in order to meet constitutional requirements and create credibility with school officials. But once you have conducted your research and recruited your staff, beginning the program is simply a matter of presenting your case to the local school board. We urge that you maintain the best possible relationship with the school board, as this is a critical factor in the implementation of Released Time.

We can provide you with all the information you need, samples of the documents, and ideas for developing your curriculum. The committee will need to meet several times to discuss the details of the program and plan for your presentation to the school board.

We believe that every school district in Wisconsin can and should have a released time program. We are prepared to help you accomplish this.

 

Department of Education Website Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Website: http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/

 

DETAILS for Wisconsin
Statutes Wisconsin compulsory attendance law requires that all children, ages 6-17 (inclusive), must attend a public, private, or home school. WIS. STAT. § 118.15

WIS. STAT. § 118.155 expressly allows school boards to permit students to be absent from school in order to obtain religious instruction. Several conditions must be satisfied including:

1. Students must have the written permission of their parents in order to be released. 2. Students must be released for at least 60 minutes but not more than 180 minutes per religious instruction. 3. Religious instruction must be off the public school premises. 4. The supervisor of such religious instruction must report monthly, to the public school principal, the names of the students who attended the religious instruction.

The school board, however may deny the privilege of Released Time to students who absent themselves from such religious instruction after requesting the privilege. The school board also has the discretionary authority to determine the time periods to be allotted students for Released Time.

All transportation involved in Released Time attendance shall be the responsibility of the parents or the religious organization. The school also releases all liability for students who go off campus for Released Time classes.

 

Regulations Each local school board sets its own guidelines for Released Time for public school students, subject to the requirements of section 118.155. (Wisconsin Board of Education, Phone: 608-266-5761).

 

Attorney General 1) 38 OP. Atty. Gen. 281 (1949).

A plan whereby students were released from school for religious instruction outside the school but that utilized the tax supported public system to aid certain religious groups in spreading their faith, violated the First Amendment.

2) 15 OP. Atty. Gen. 4834 (1926).

Local school boards have the power to fix hours during which school will be held and to excuse students as long as the public teachers are not involved with the dissemination of religious instructions.

 

Case Law Holt v. Thompson 225 N.W. 2d 678 (1975)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that a Released Time program which involves no expenditure of public funds nor denies non-participating students the right to a free and public education is not violative of the U.S. or Wisconsin Constitutions. The Wisconsin Released Time statute (§118.155) does no more than accommodate schedules in schools to a program of outside religious instruction. Since it does not take place on public school property and since no student is compelled to attend religious instruction, the Released Time program's primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religious. (Holt, at 685)