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Virginia Beach

HEAV contacted the school board regarding a policy stating the superintendent had authority to grant a religious exemption from compulsory attendance. However, the compulsory attendance law gives this authority solely to the school board.

In response to our concern, the school board consulted with their attorney. The attorney advised, although the school board followed the law in practice, the policy did not make this clear. He recommended changing the policy to ensure it is consistent with the law. Following his recommendation, the school board promptly revised its policy.

HEAV is thankful to the Virginia Beach school board for their consistent, top-notch public service, quick responses, effective solutions, and for the example they are to districts around the state.

What You Should Know:

  • Policies are not law. Policies should agree with the law. Parents are required to comply with the law.
  • The law states: “A school board shall excuse from attendance at school: 1. Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.
  • The law does not indicate that district employees have been given authority to make recommendations or act as an intermediary between a parent and the school board on the matter of religious exemption from compulsory attendance.
  • HEAV believes best practice to send religious exemption documents directly to the school board to the attention of the school board chairman. The school board is tasked to review the documentation, determine whether it reflects genuine and sincere religious beliefs; and acknowledge the children are excused from compulsory attendance. HEAV believes the acknowledgement letter should be sent from the school board directly to the parents to ensure confidentiality.
  • Reference: §22.1-254.(B)(1), HEAV Article: Religious Exemption.

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

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