The Knox County School Board (KCSB) decided against creating additional rules for Bible Release Time, which allows Tennessee parents to pull their kids for one hour every month to attend off-campus religious instruction.
In a 5-4 decision Wednesday, the school board voted down allowing students to leave school on specific dates and times, requiring religious institutions to obtain liability insurance and people who interact with the kids to get background checks, according to the Associated Press.
A 2015 Tennessee law allows local school boards to decide if students can be excused during school hours to go to a religious class for up to one hour a week. Knox County ran a pilot program at Sterchi Elementary School that was organized by the Church at Sterchi Hills, which has backing from the Elgin Foundation. The condition for this program was that the religious instruction had to be off school grounds.
According to Knox News, the church would drive the kids two miles to the church to go to class. While at the church students would do 10 minutes of ‘singing and games,’ 10 minutes of ‘memory work, prayer and review’ and a 25-minute Bible lesson before being taken back to school.”
The pilot program is no longer running. However, the Elgin Foundation has programs in nine other Tennesse districts that are similar to what Knox County had.
Last week, KCSB held public hearings on the county’s Bible Release Time. Many of the people who attended the event asked questions about the separation of church and state, kids potentially being bullied for not being in the program, missed school time and the safety of kids who leave the school, the Knox News reports.
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