STATUTES: ANNOTATED CODE OF MARYLAND
Maryland compulsory attendance law [§7-301 (9)] requires that all children, ages 6-15 (inclusive), attend public school "unless the child is otherwise receiving regular, thorough instruction" during the school year in studies usually taught in public schools.
Although Maryland has no expressed Released Time Statute, Section 7-301 (b) does allow a county superintendent or school principal the authority to excuse a child for a "necessary absence."
Some Maryland school districts have interpreted "necessary absences" as permitting students to be released for religious instruction.
EDUCATION REGULATION (Policy):
According to Ellen Heller, Assistant Attorney General (Baltimore City, 301-576-6450), the interpretation of "necessary absence" is left to the discretion of each local school system. As a result, some school districts have used this statutory authority to grant excuses for children attending religious instruction.
ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS: None
Like your state, many do not have specific laws or guidelines concerning Released Time. The absence of a specific law does not necessarily prohibit Released Time programs. In fact, it may allow a wider range of Released Time programs. For example, it is possible to offer Released Time classes as an off-campus elective class on the High School or Junior High level, which students take daily. This is being done in states such as Georgia, Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.
The particular challenge in your state is that in the absence of a specific statute, you will need to conduct research into the legal background of Released Time at the federal level (FCRTM can help!), and how decisions are made within your school system. The majority of school districts would require approval at the school board level, but many are moving to "site-based management,' which would perhaps allow individual school principals to approve a Released Time program. Once your research is complete, you will need to approach the appropriate decision-maker(s) with a proposal for a Released Time class.
Even with the Supreme Court decision of 1952 (Zorach vs. Clauson), we must remember that approval for a Released Time program is a privilege, not a right. School principals and school boards may accommodate a Released time program, but they are not required to do so. Experience teaches us that a carefully crafted approach, coupled with a positive relationship with school officials will usually open the doors for a Released Time program.
The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries
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