"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
Why Released Time Bible Education?
A quiet, but steady revolution has taken place in the American public school system during the past three decades. The Judeo-Christian worldview has been replaced in large part by one that is markedly secular. In response to this shift, many parents have chosen alternative ways to educate their children. The most common option has been to turn to parochial and church schools. Yet, for many other parents this option is not available to them in their community. Countless others simply cannot afford the financial burden of a private education.
The vast majority of parents believes strongly in the public school system and find it to be the best alternative for their children. Yet, many wish that there could be some effective way to counteract the humanistic worldview often presented in our public schools. Religious released time education can provide parents a counter-balance. It is an opportunity overlooked by most parents, clergymen, and educators.
Released Time Bible Education was first proposed at a teachers’ conference in New York in 1905. The proposal was to allow public schools to be closed one day a week so that parents could have the option of sending their children to religious instruction outside the school building. Nearly a decade later, in 1914, William Wirt, the superintendent of Gary Schools in Indiana, implemented a released-time program. He did so because of his concern that children were not receiving enough religious and moral instruction in public school. His program consisted of local clergymen holding classes within the school for those students wanting to attend. The program grew and inspired similar programs to begin throughout the United States under the names of released time, weekday religious education, and dismissed time.
U.S. Supreme Court Decisions:
Only two United States Supreme Court cases have dealt specifically with religious released time programs. Before the 1948 Supreme Court’s decision of Illinois McCollum v. Board of Education, no released time program had been held unconstitutional by state or federal courts. In McCollum, however, the Court held that a released time program in which Illinois McCollum v. Bd. of Educ., 333 U.S. 203 (1948) was unconstitutional. Religious representatives came into public classrooms for less than an hour per week to give religious instruction was a violation of First Amendment prohibition against government establishment of an official religion. Many persons reading McCollum thought that any released time program might therefore be held unconstitutional.
Four years later, however, in Zorach v. Clauson, the Supreme Court upheld a released time program. The controlling facts were that the program in Zorach was conducted off the school campus, no public funds were used to finance it, and parental permission was obtained for the child to be in the program. Many lower courts, when considering the constitutionality of a released time program, specifically compare it to the Zorach released time program. Despite having been decided in 1952, Zorach is still a valid decision. The Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and state attorney generals still cite it approvingly. In one case, a federal district court held a released time program similar to one in Zorach unconstitutional, arguing that Zorach was no longer considered good law by the Supreme Court. The federal circuit court reversed that ruling, saying that Zorach had not been abandoned. The Supreme Court refused to review the circuit court’s decision, giving its tacit approval of the circuit court’s holding.
The Oakland, CA Study on Released Time Bible Education:
California has had RTBE programs since the World War II Era. Parents were extremely concerned about the effect the war years were having on children with so many fathers away. People who knew about the released time option were watching and preparing for California to have a provision for Released Time Bible Education. When the policy permitting time to release students for religious education was added to the state education code in 1942 people were ready. Programs were started in Oakland, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Burbank and Long Beach in 1943. Soon RTBE Programs were being started all over the state.
Overall benefits of RTBE:
• Bible classes teach right from wrong, love, and
limits, respect for authority and personal
• Students find hope, security, confidence, and
purpose in small group settings.
• School leaders see a decrease in "attrition" as a
result of Released Time attendance.
• Improved test scores of students; even of at-risk
The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) in 2003 performed an independent program evaluation in cooperation with the Oakland, California, Released Time program. The benefits of the program extend far beyond growth in religious knowledge. In the 2003 study, Oakland students who participated in the Released Time program performed better than non-enrolled students in almost every academic category, and showed significant increases in three major literacy skills. The positive moral and character development afforded through the program provided positive interaction for youth considered at-risk for delinquency, the study found.
• A comparative review between the academic performance scores of Oakland Released Time students and all 4th and 5th graders in Released Time schools reveals that students in Oakland Released Time perform better than their classmates as a whole in almost every category.
• Oakland Released Time’s curricula reinforce key literacy components such as spelling and reading comprehension, among others, and reflects positively on the relevancy of the instruction to the academic performance of children participating in the program.
• Overall, the scores of Oakland Released Time students improved after one year (between the academic year 2001-2002 and 2002-2003) in three categories of literacy skills: comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary.
• Oakland Released Time provides youth with strong adult mentorship and bonding.
• Oakland Released Time reinforces positive moral and character development that is antithetical to engaging in criminal or delinquent behavior.
• Oakland Released Time interacts with youth who experience many of the academic problems (poor performance, illiteracy, etc.) that are correlated with a history of delinquency.
"Overall conclusion, Oakland Released Time contributes
positively to improving Oakland public schools."
Study on the Outcome of Character Being Taught in Schools
Meta-Analysis of 40 studies on the relationship between character education, student achievement, and behavioral outcomes had the concluding thoughts on character:
“The results of this study quite strongly suggest that teachers and leaders need to revisit the potential value of character instruction. There is a certain irony to the fact that in terms of further research on this topic, a much wider implementation of character education is probably required. A greater utilization of character instruction will likely yield three benefits. First, to the extent that practicing more character instruction appears to yield both academic and behavioral benefits, schools and society will likely become stronger in a variety of ways. Second, one this is accomplished, the further study of moral instruction will be facilitated. Third, contemporary schools will act more consistently with strategies that are known to have benefitted schools and society for over 2,000 years. The results of this meta-analysis make it difficult to argue against teaching love, compassion, responsibility, honesty, and integrity in the schools.”
A META-ANALYSIS ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARACTER EDUCATION AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AND BEHAVIORAL OUTCOMES by William H. Jeynes, (Ph. D., University of Chicago, Ed. M., Harvard University)
Also, The Commission on Children at Risk which found that youth who regularly participate in religious activities like Released Time Bible Education showed improved relationship skills, self-confidence, regards for others, coping skills and self-purpose. They also demonstrated a reduction in risk-taking behaviors.
SOS! For The Students:
Our purpose is to implement the1952 Ruling of the Supreme Court and the 2019 Tennessee Public Law 49-2-130, allowing every public school student to learn Biblical character.
SOS! For The Students is committed to a three-fold philosophy:
We Keep it Legal:
SOS! For The Students is keenly aware of the need to keep public and religious institutions separate. We are diligent to adhere to relevant laws and policies, namely, the maintenance of a program that is privately funded, off school property and parent-permitted.
We Keep it Simple:
Students receive the central message of core Biblical foundations and themes, which, studies show, can positively affect mental health. SOS! For The Students accomplishes this without getting bogged down in the finer points of religious doctrine.
We Keep it Practical:
Students receive a weekly character quality lesson and learn how it can be applied in the classroom, home and community.
In a nutshell, SOS! For the Students:
-gives students a solid foundation in character development
-does not take students away from any core curriculum
(It is treated as an elective course.)
-requires no additional time from the classroom teacher
-gives students positive peer groups
-gives additional positive adult interactions
-charges no tuition
"In a legal and appropriate way, Released Time Religious Education speaks to a desire deeply felt by a very large proportion of the American people.”
– William J. Moloney, Colorado Commissioner of Education