State of
New York

Released Time Laws and Guidelines for the state of New York


New York compulsory attendance law (§3205) requires that all children, ages 6-15 (inclusive), must attend public school "or elsewhere."

Section 3210 (b) permits public school students to be absent in order to attend religious instruction or observance. All such Released Time excuses and programs are governed by the rules that the Commissioner of Education will establish.


§NYCRR 109.2 (New York Commissioner's Revised Regulations)

A student will be excused from school during school hours for religious education upon a request in writing signed by the student's parents [NYCRR 109.2 (a)]. Such religious instruction must be given off of the public school grounds and be operated under the control of "duly constituted religious bodies: [NYCRR 109.2 (b)]. Students, in addition, must be registered for the religious courses and a copy of the registration and. attendance record must be filed with the local public school authorities [NYCRR 109.2 (c) (d)].

A local board of education, in its discretion may permit students to be released for not more than one hour a week while school is in session [NYCRR 109.2 (c)].

A board of education may also establish an optional program for high school students in order (grades 9-12) to permit a student, with the written approval of parent, to enroll in a course in religion in a registered non-public high school [NYCRR 109.2 (f)]. Absence to attend such a course may be excused for the number of periods per week that the course is scheduled in the nonpublic school.


A program for religious instruction may be initiated by any religious organization in cooperation with the parents concerned. There will be, however, no announcement of any kind in the public school concerning the Released Time program. Each religious organization will issue a card to a student to be countersigned by the parent and addressed to the principal of the public school, requesting the release of the student from school for the purpose of religious instruction at a specific location.

A student is to be released for the last hour of the instructional day each week to receive religious instruction - this hour is generally 2:00 p.m. The day upon which Released Time is permitted for all boroughs is Wednesday.

For specific reporting requirements of the public schools concerning Released Time programs see Chancellor's regulation A-631 (8/17/81) which is attached.


1) Lewis v. Graves 156 N.E. 663 (1927)

A White Plains Released Time program was upheld as valid under the N.Y. Constitutional provision prohibiting funding of religious schools and under the general attendance statute. The White Plains plan allowed students to be excused during the last half-hour of the day, once each week. Written consent of parents was required; and no public funds were used to implement the program. At the time, no Released Time statutes or regulations had been enacted.

2) 66 St. Dept. 8 (1945)

In one district, 160 students received religious instruction on public school property, sometimes in the same room as non-participating students. The Commissioner wrote that school buildings should not be used for religious instruction. Students should be excused to receive religious education away from public school grounds.

3) Lewis v. Spaulding 85 NYS 2d 582 (1948)

The New York city Released Time program, similar to the current NYC plan, was held to be valid. The NYC plan in contrast to the Champaign, Illinois plan struck down in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S, 203, was ruled to be constitutional and not in violation of the First Amendment prohibiting the making of any law respecting the establishment of religion.

The constitutionality of each Released Time program, however, must be tested by the factual aspects of the particular programs under scrutiny.

4) Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952)

This case is virtually identical in its facts to Lewis v. Spaulding, Supra. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that McCollum, supra, was not an absolute ban on Released Time education, and that the NYC Released Time program is constitutional. The New York program was different from the McCollum Released Time program in three ways:

1) No religious instruction took place on public school property.

2) No public funds were expended to finance the Released Time programs.

3) No promotion or involvement of public school teacher in the Released Time program.

Zorach is currently considered the standard by which Released Time programs in all states are judged.

5) Thomas O7Veill v. Sondra ONeill 45 Misc. 2d 1 (1965)M

This is the only case reported dealing with Released Time since Zorach. A Jewish woman and a Catholic man obtained a divorce and the woman was granted custody of the daughter. - The man sought a court order to direct the mother to have the child attend a Catholic Church through the Released Time program. The Court denied the request since it would probably psychologically injure the child to be raised in a religion different from that practiced in her new home.

Released Time organizations in the state of New York

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries

Bible Club Ministries
Bermus Point

Bible Club Ministries

Chazy Elementary Protestant Released Time Program

Corning Area Bible Club
Painted Post
(607) 962-5786

Cortland Bible Camp

Mooers Elementary Protestant Released Time

Northern Adirondack Central School Released Time
(518) 594-3902

Released Time
(716) 493-2439


Released Time education is used extensively in New York. Transportation methods vary by district.


The first step is to gather as much information as you can about New York's Released Time statute, where classes are being conducted, 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.

Information provided by:

The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries

5722 Lime Ave. ˜ Long Beach, CA 90805

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