STATUTES: Montana Code Annotated
Montana compulsory attendance law (§20-5-102) requires that all children, ages 7-15 (inclusive); must attend public school unless the child is enrolled in a nonpublic school or home school that complies with §20-5-109.
Section 20-1-308 of the Montana Code expressly provides that trustees of elementary or high school districts may allow Released Time for religious instruction.
Several conditions for lawful operation of Released Time programs are delineated in this section.
1. Parents of the child must request permission annually from the Board of Trustees in order to have their child released to attend religious instruction.
2. The Released Time may not exceed two hours per week.3. Religious instruction must take place off of public school property. 4. No public funds can be used to finance such religious instruction. Released Time is considered part of the school day and week for the purpose of the Code and the released may not adversely affect student attendance records.
EDUCATION REGULATIONS: (Policy)
There are no formal rules or requirements applying to a released time religious education program.
CASES: NoneATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS: None
The first step is to gather as much information as you can about Montana'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 the program.
The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries
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