Released Time Bible study during public school

Joy El claims this program enables the students’ personal development.

A number of Pennsylvania school children participate in “Released Time,” a program permitting school students to go for religious instruction. Parental permissions are needed for every student. Over 3,000 students in Pennsylvania participate. The students go to a church program administered by Joy El Ministries.

Released Time is legal in all U.S. states. It is a voluntary one where students opt for religious education during school times. This arrangement brings with it a number of conditions. The first and foremost among them is that the religious education must be done outside the school limits. There is a time limit of 36 hours for every school year as per Pennsylvania law. Other than the mandatory approval of parents, they must make up for any missed class assignment or work.

According to the Joy El website, the Released Time program benefits the child in multiple ways. They cite a study by National Council on Crime and Delinquency. This review established that students who participate in this program during fourth and fifth grade perform much better academically than those classmates who opted out from such a study. All three literacy skills: vocabulary, comprehension, and spelling are improved. It is also claimed the program imparts in students robust bonding and adult mentorship. There is also the reinforcement of positive character and mental development in the middle of an environment where teachers are observed to struggle while imparting learning to unruly students.

Joy El also claims that the program teaches good attitudes and character qualities. These good traits are encouraged in the child to make them their personal habits. The upright character and spiritual training help children to make better choices in modern culture which frequently promotes unfairness.

Joy El was established in 1938. At that time Bible was still permitted to be taught in schools. From its Franklin County base, the program has expanded to 21 school districts. Programs are offered for students studying in third grade to eighth grade. It is not alone.

The American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU has expressed their concerns about the Released Time programs. Primary among the concerns is whether schools use their own resources to promote this program.

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