Sunday, May 14, 2017

New Tennessee Law Requires Religious Holy Day Accommodation For School Athletics

On May 2 (bill history), Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1012, as amended, which gives students' religious observances priority over athletic schedules.  The new law provides:
A local education agency, local school board, school, educator, or employee or the employee's representative may not require a student to attend a school athletic event, or event related to participation on a school athletic team, if the event is on an official school holiday, observed day of worship, or religious holiday. The parent or legal guardian of a student participating in a school athletic event may provide written notice that the student will not be in attendance to the coach or administrator of the athletic event at least three (3) full school days prior to the event. Prior written notice to the coach or administrator of the school athletic event may not be required if the absence is due to an unforeseen emergency.
In comments published by Forbes after the bill's enactment, the sponsor of the parallel measure in the state House of Representatives appears to understate the mandatory excusal requirement of the law, saying:
What we're trying to do is bring awareness and realization to athletic programs that the school and administration have leeway when it comes to answering the needs of families. It provides a platform for discussion to take place.