HB 171 permits school districts to allow high school students release time to receive religious instruction conducted off school property during regular school hours. The students can be granted up to two units of high school credit. Students cannot substitute these credits for core curriculum classes that are required to graduate. Credits may be substituted for required elective courses, including classes like foreign language, fine arts, and additional math and sciences. A school board's evaluation of the courses must based on secular criteria and not involve any test for religious content or denominational affiliation.
Students need written permission from their parents to attend these courses, are responsible for their own transportation (including students with disabilities) and must make up any missed school work.
No public funds or public instructors can be used for any part of the released time program. Attendance must be tracked by the program’s instructors and reported back to the public school.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
The ACLU of Ohio opposes this bill because, at its core, HB 171 opens the door to public school students receiving school credit to learn sectarian religious ideology. While the bill requires a school board to use certain “secular criteria” to evaluate courses for credit, these criteria are still vague and could provide for problematic state sanctioning of religious teachings. Students should be free to study religious based courses on their own time, but the public school system should not be rewarding credits for overtly religious instruction.
Passed out of the House Education Committee on 12/11/13
Passed the House on 1/15/14
Passed out of the Senate Education Committee on 5/28/14
Passed the Senate on 6/3/14
Signed by the Governor on 6/12/14
Education (H), Education (S)