Law Office of Michelle Ball attendance/truancy,free speech/religion Can Students Be Excused From Attending School During Religious Instruction?

Can Students Be Excused From Attending School During Religious Instruction?


religious activities outside school may warrant excused absence

Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Religion and religious instruction in the schools generally does not occur based on the doctrine of separation of church and state.  But, can a parent provide religious instruction during school hours to a student for which they receive essentially an EXCUSE to be away from school that will not make them truants?  Maybe– the answer depends on the school district involved and their policies.

Board Policy Needs to Allow Religious Excusal From School

Per California Education Code section 46014, a school district MAY adopt a policy allowing pupils to be excused from instruction to participate in:

“religious exercises or to receive moral and religious instruction at their respective places of worship or at other suitable place or places away from school property designated by the religious group, church, or denomination”

Religious instruction
Students may receive an excuse to be away from school for religious instruction, depending on the school board policy.

Religious Absence is Not an “Absence”

The code also states that a religious time away from school, if allowed, is not computed as an “absence” for the school.  In other words, the school still gets paid for that student’s attendance.  Sounds great!

Some Mandatory Prerequisites

There are requirements for religious absences, including:

1)  The student would still have to attend the minimum school day required, and
2)  The district would have to pass a policy allowing these types of student religious absences, and
3)  The religious absences are limited to a maximum of four times per month (or as specified in the district policy).

So, if you would like a student to attend a religious matter during school hours, check if your school district has a policy allowing this.  If a student’s school district has a religious excusal policy, parents have to follow the policy in place.  If a school does not have a religious policy, parents can ask the board of education to adopt one!


Parent and student rights lawyer Michelle Ball helps with constitutional rights in school, attendance problems, truancy and many other school difficulties. As an attorney licensed in California, she helps throughout the state, in Sacramento, Roseville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Elk Grove, Montecito, and many other locations.

[originally published March 12, 2011]

1 thought on “Can Students Be Excused From Attending School During Religious Instruction?”

  1. Jen says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Do you know if this code allows equal consideration for atheists? For example, can a child use the same code to attend atheist community events?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer

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