Knox County BOE Considers Release Time

There is some confusion regarding the Knox County Board of Education’s consideration of a “Released Time” policy.

This is a policy discussion – NOT a discussion regarding the merits of a program. Once the policy is in place, ANY program can take time from instruction at ANY Knox County school. The Board of Education cannot vote on the PROGRAM. By law, the only thing we can vote to do is to implement a “release time” POLICY, to allow ANY AND ALL groups to take children from our schools for whatever their group may consider “moral instruction.”

 

Cuts to our students’ time in arts classes has already negatively impacted a whole generation and continuing to cut time from instruction should be considered educational malpractice.

 

There are multiple considerations for our school board, including the fact that students who are not in the programs will be significantly negatively impacted because their instructional time is being impacted. Cuts to our students’ time in arts classes has already negatively impacted a whole generation and continuing to cut time from instruction should be considered educational malpractice.

I encourage you to take a close look at the “released time” law and see what it allows and what it does not allow. (I will paste it below.) Please notice that once a policy is in place, the school district will have absolutely no oversight of the people a child leaves school with for this time.

This is not a field trip. There are no KCS background checks, employee interviews, or anything else. The school board will not be vetting ANY of the organizations that come to pick up children and the district will not be verifying that the organization’s staff are who they say they are or whether they are teaching what they claim to teach. Parents will be giving up ALL school supervision of children during that hour. The children will be fully “released” into the care of whoever is on that bus, van, car, or whatever. By law, the district will have absolutely no oversight. I hope you will step back from any religious consideration and look and the very real potential this has to bring significant harm to children. I find this terrifying.

 

WHAT DOES TENNESSEE CODE SAY?

TCA 49-2-130

Policy excusing student to attend released time course in religious moral instruction authorized — Requirements — Liability — Credit.

(a) As used in this section,”released time course” means a period of time during which a student is excused from school to attend a course in religious moral instruction taught by an independent entity off school property.

(b) A local board of education may adopt a policy that excuses a student from school to attend a released time course in religious moral instruction for no more than one (1) class period per school day; provided, that:

(1) The student’s parent or legal guardian signs a written consent form prior to the student’s participation in the released time course;

(2) The released time course shall be conducted off public school property; 

(3) The independent entity maintains attendance records and makes the records available to the LEA and the local board of education;

(4) Any transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for students with disabilities, is the responsibility of the independent entity, parent, legal guardian, or student;

(5) The independent entity assumes liability for the student attending the released time course from the time that the student leaves the school until the student returns to the school;

(6) No public funds are expended and no public school personnel are involved in providing the instruction for released time courses;

(7) The student assumes responsibility for any missed schoolwork;

(8) The principal of the school, or the principal’s designee, shall determine the classes from which the student may be excused to participate in the released time course; provided, that the student may not be excused to participate in a released time course during any class in which subject matter is taught for which the state requires an examination for state or federal accountability purposes; and

(9) The released time courses shall coincide with school class schedules.

 

(c) The LEA, the local board of education, the local governing authority, and the state shall not be liable for the student who participates in the released time course.

(d) The written consent form under subdivision (b)(1) shall provide a disclaimer that: 

(1) Eliminates any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to the LEA of an endorsement of a religious instruction; and

(2) Waives any right of the student’s parent or legal guardian to hold the school, the LEA, the employees of the school or LEA, or the state liable for the student participating in a released time course. (e) Instructors of released time courses are not required to be licensed or certificated pursuant to chapter 5 of this title. Instructors and other employees of the released time courses shall be hired by the independent entity.

 

(f) A student who attends a released time course shall be credited with time spent as if the student attended school, and the time shall be calculated as part of the actual school day.

 

(g)

(1) A local board of education may adopt a policy to award students credit for work completed in a released time course that is substantiated by a transcript from the entity that provided the released time course. If a board adopts a policy in accordance with this subsection (g), then a student may be awarded one-half (1/2) unit of elective credit for the completion of each released time course.

(2) In order to determine whether elective credit may be awarded for the student’s completion of a released time course, the local board of education shall evaluate the course in a neutral manner that does not involve any test for religious content or denominational affiliation. For purposes of this subsection (g), the secular criteria used to evaluate a released time course may include:

(A) The amount of classroom instruction time;

(B) The course syllabus, which reflects the course requirements and any materials used in the course; 

(C) Methods of assessment used in the course; and 

(D) Whether the course was taught by an instructor licensed pursuant to chapter 5 of this title.

 

 

1 comment to Knox County BOE Considers Release Time

  • Lisa Starbuck

    If churches want to provide moral instruction, they should participate in the community schools program – AFTER instructional time.

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