Friday, March 11, 2011

An Excused School Absence for Religious Instruction? Maybe! Check Your School District Policies

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Religion and religious instruction in the schools generally does not occur based on the doctrine of separation of Church and State.  But, can a parent provide their OWN religious instruction during school hours for which they receive an EXCUSED absence?  Maybe-- the answer depends on the school district involved.

Per California Education Code section 46014, a school district MAY adopt a policy allowing pupils to be excused from instruction to participate in:

"religious exercises or to receive moral and religious instruction at their respective places of worship or at other suitable place or places away from school property designated by the religious group, church, or denomination"

The code also states that such an absence, if allowed, is not computed as an "absence" for the school.  In other words, the school still gets paid for that child's attendance.  Sounds great!

There are limitations however:

1)  The child would still have to attend the minimum school day required [as this does not say "days" this is a tad confusing], and
2)  The district would have to pass a policy allowing these types of absences, and
3)  The absences are limited to a maximum of four times per month (or as specified in the district policy).

If you would like your child to attend a religious matter during school hours check if your school district has a policy allowing this to be an excused absence.  If they do, you will have to follow the policy in place.  If they do not, you can ask your Board of Education to adopt one!

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page []. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle,

    Do you know if this code allows equal consideration for atheists? For example, can a child use the same code to attend atheist community events?

    Thank you,


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