Religious Exemption Requests
For purposes of definition regarding Religious Exemption - The statute regarding religious training for children is §22.1-254 (B)(1) and it reads:
“A school board shall excuse from attendance at school: any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school. For purposes of this subdivision, “bona fide religious training or belief” does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.”
1. Nelson County Schools requires a letter requesting the religious exemption with some type of supporting documents.
a) Send the letter along with the supporting documentation to our local school board to the attention of the Division Superintendent. The letter should come from the parent(s)/guardian(s) and it should describe the family’s religious beliefs, particularly those ideas for the family and the spiritual basis for opposing attendance at a public school,
b) The supporting documentation can be both items listed below or you may select just one item:
Ø Scriptural or other spiritual quotations, if available, that support or affirm the family’s beliefs,
Ø Letters from friends, relatives, or members of the family’s faith, that confirm the family’s beliefs are sincere.
2. The School Board Office will then review the letter and the supporting documents. If there is adequate documentation, the Division Superintendent will then take the request to the next School Board Meeting as an Item for Action. The Board Members then decide to approve or decline the request. The decision will be based on the information that has been provided by the requesting family.
a) If a School Board approves the request, the School Board will issue a letter acknowledging that the family has a religious exemption to school attendance under §22.1-254 B 1 of the Code of Virginia.
b) If a school board rejects the request for religious exemption, the School Board will request additional information to take to the next School Board meeting and they will review the request a second time. Keep in mind that if the School Board rejects the request, a family is not exempt from the Compulsory Attendance Code and the family must comply with one of the lawful options under that law (public school, private school, or file under the home instruction statute) or risk civil and criminal process for truancy.
- Once the request has been approved, a religious exemption request lasts as long as your child is of compulsory school attendance age. Basically, once you have filed for this, you do not need to file for it again. However, keep in mind that the School Board is excusing the one child form attendance from school. The School Board will expect another request for any subsequent children that come of school age.
- According to several Attorney General opinions (Attorney General Gerald Baliles, May 29, 1984 and Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, November 18, 1988), a School Board may ask a family annually or every few years if their status has changed. You may receive a survey requesting information regarding the status of your family (demographical information). The school system is required annually to give the State of Virginia the number of students being instructed at home under the Religious Exempt Code and provide the corresponding ages/grade levels of each student.