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Law permits students to miss class for religious instruction

Reims Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons
Reims Cathedral

A new law allows public school students to leave class up to three times a week to pursue religious or moral instruction outside of school.

House Bill 1425 sponsored by state lawmakers Rep. Clay Staires (R-Skiatook) and Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week.

The law is based on a 1952 Supreme Court decision in Zorach v. Clauson allowing students to miss school for religious reasons.

Rader says his law giving guidelines for an established right is nothing new.

“Those types of rulings don’t come with directions on the method or process about which that could occur," said Rader.

Naysayers argue that the law is too vague and could lead to legal issues for schools.

Rep. Suzanne Schreiber (D-Tulsa) voted against the bill. She's concerned absences could detract from a school’s sense of community.

“We’re taking apart our school day where we’re building relationships. I have serious concerns about how this will affect the culture of public school," said Schreiber.

Schreiber also warned that the law could perpetuate already rising levels of chronic absenteeism in Oklahoma.

Absenteeism is a metric measured by Oklahoma when judging a school’s performance. Increased levels could negatively affect the state’s evaluation of schools.

Jolie is an undergraduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., studying peace and conflict resolution in international affairs. She is deeply passionate about the role of local media in fostering community engagement and is excited to contribute to and learn from Public Radio Tulsa. She's part of the George Kaiser Community Foundation’s Summer Impact Internship program.