CCSA Answers: Charter Schools and Student Absence for a Religious Service

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January 23, 2017 Question: How is a student's absence for a religious service treated under California law?

Answer: Charter schools, as non-secular public schools, welcome students from all faiths and religions and honor the many traditions of the students and families they serve in their diverse school communities. The school calendar of each independent charter public school is one element of developing the school's culture and is best determined by the needs and diversity of the school community that the school serves. Most school holidays are prescribed by California law. It should also be noted that California State Law requires excused absences for students in observance of a holiday or ceremony of the pupil's religion which would allow a student to participate without any negative implications for the student at school. However, while state law provides for student excused absence for religious observances, we highly recommend that schools take into consideration these important dates when scheduling testing, assignments and other important school activities so as to not impact students who may be legitimately excused. We would also encourage any charter public school families with specific religious observances to speak with their child's school teacher and school leader to find ways to collaboratively meet their child's educational needs.