April 17, 2013 – Texas law says that Texas children are “excused” from public school attendance for observing a religious holy day, such as Good Friday. However, it has come to our attention that some school districts in the DFW area are making tomorrow, Good Friday, an official makeup day for a previous bad weather day. Further, we have been informed about concerns regarding how one school district (H.E.B. ISD) is handling this issue, specifically requesting “documentation of participation” of how a student chooses to exercise their holy day observance, if a student seeks to be “excused.”
Good Friday is a holy day for Christians and the Texas Education Code requires that schools provide an “excused” absence for students that observe a religious holy day. Texas law does not say that a child has to attend a specific religious event. Specifically, the Texas Education Code 25.087(b)(1)(A) states that:
b) a school district shall excuse a student from attending school for:
(1) the following purposes, including travel for those purposes:
(A) observing religious holy days;
“We are concerned that Good Friday would be chosen as a “make up” day to begin with, but we are even more concerned that students and families may be punished for exercising their First Amendment rights because school districts refuse to follow state law,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. “Students and parents should not be bullied by school districts who refuse to respect religious liberty,” concluded Saenz.
Further, Texas law states that:
(d) A student whose absence is excused under Subsection (b), (b-1), (b-2), (b-4), or (c) may not be penalized for that absence and shall be counted as if the student attended school for purposes of calculating the average daily attendance of students in the school district. A student whose absence is excused under Subsection (b), (b-1), (b-2), (b-4), or (c) shall be allowed a reasonable time to make up school work missed on those days. If the student satisfactorily completes the school work, the day of absence shall be counted as a day of compulsory attendance.