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

West Virginia

Updated July 2009  
SUMMARY for West Virginia
General Information The first step is to gather as much information as you call about West Virginia's Released Time statute. What, if anything, is being done with Released Time in the state, and how a Released Time program may address state educational objectives (e.g. self-esteem, values education)? Determine who will make the decision whether to allow a program and make an appointment to see that person. If the principal refers you to the school board, you would be wise to meet individually with school board members before presenting the concept at a school board meeting.

Keep in mind that school officials are not required to approve a program. However, with a carefully crafted approach and with statutory recognition, you should expect success in gaining approval for tile program.

 

Department of Education Website West Virginia Department of Education

Website: http://wvde.state.wv.us/

 

DETAILS for West Virginia
Statutes West Virginia Code Annotated

The West Virginia compulsory attendance law requires that all children, ages 7-15 (inclusive), must attend public school or receive instruction in a private, parochial or other approved school. W. VA. CODE §18-8-1(a)

The West Virginia legislature has expressly granted an exemption from compulsory attendance for all children released from public school for religious instruction. W. VA. CODE §18-8-1(j) vests power in the County Board of Education to approve exemption for religious instruction upon a written request from the parent. Exemption for religious instruction upon a written request from the parent. Exemption for religious instruction, however, "shall be subject to the rules and regulations prescribed by the county superintendent and approved by the County Board of Education."

 

Regulations Released Time for religious instruction is allowed provided such programs follow the guidelines set forth by each local school board.

 

Case Law

Smith v. Smith, 523 F. 2d 121 (4th Cir. 1975) cert. denied 423 U.S. 1073

In Smith, an action was brought to challenge a Released Time program whereby public school students were released during school hours for religious instruction off school premises by a nonprofit organization supported by a council of churches. The U.S. Court of Appeals held that it was their duty to follow the Zorach v. Clauson test, which held that the Released Time programs for religious instruction were constitutional as long as they did not involve public funds or take place on public school property. Smith v. Smith, 523 F.2d 121, 123 (4th Cir. 1975).

The Harrisonburg Released Time program, therefore, was constitutional since it 1) had a secular purpose in accommodating the wishes of the parents, 2) did not excessively entangle the state with religion since the religious instruction did not take place in the class rooms, and 3) its primary effect neither advanced nor inhibited religion. The Court concluded,

..public school cooperation with the religious authorities in Zorach and the instant case is a largely passive and administratively wise response to a plenitude of parental assertions of the right to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. Smith, 523 F.2d at 125.

Thus public school cooperation with Released Time programs for religious instruction is constitutional and "administratively wise." Although this case was about a program in Virginia, it does have precedential weight in federal courts in West Virginia.

Moss v. Spartanburg County School District Seven, 683 F.3d 599 (4th Cir. 2012)

In Moss, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the South Carolina school district's practice of awarding academic credit through a religiously affiliated private school, reiterating that Zorach is good law and holding that released time programs, and the academic credit received for them, is an accommodation of the parents' right to choose the type of education their child receives. Although this case deals with South Carolina's Released Time statute, it does have precedential power in federal courts in West Virginia.