Private School Regulation

Alabama

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: All private schools, except church schools, must register annually on or before October 10 with the Alabama Department of Education and report on the number of students and instructors, enrollment, attendance, course of study, length of term, cost of tuition, funds, value of property, and the general condition of the school. Ala. Code § 16-1-11. The state superintendent of education furnishes the necessary forms for reporting. Ala. Code § 16-4-16.

"Church schools" are defined as schools offering "instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof including the kindergarten, elementary, or secondary level and are operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis which do not receive any state or federal funding." Ala. Code 16-28-1.

Licensing by the Alabama Department of Education is required annually prior to the operation of a private school. Ala. Code § 16-46-5. However, most private elementary and secondary schools would qualify for exemptions, as schools operated by "a parochial, denominational, or religious organization, and/or as a ministry of a local church or group of churches on a nonprofit basis" or schools operated by "a community, educational organization, or group of parents, organized as a nonprofit educational corporation with the expectation of establishing a more favorable environment for those in attendance." Ala. Code § 16-46-3. Exempted private schools may voluntarily request to be licensed without surety. Ala. Code § 16-46-3(d). Licensing is based on specific criteria, such as, the quality and content of curriculum, adequate space, equipment, instructional materials and personnel, recordkeeping, and financial stability. Ala. Code § 16-46-5(i)(1)-(7). Ala. Admin. Code r. 290-030-050.

By definition, a private school, but not a church school, holds a certificate issued by the state superintendent of education showing that the school conforms to the following requirements: (1) instruction is given by persons holding certificates issued by the state superintendent of education; (2) instruction is given in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools; (3) the English language is used in giving instruction; 4) a register of attendance is kept indicating every absence of each child from school for a half day or more. Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1).

Recordkeeping/Reports: The principal teacher of private and church schools must keep an attendance register showing the enrollment of the school and every absence of each enrolled child from school for a half day or more. Ala. Code § 16-28-8. The registry is admissible as evidence in compulsory attendance hearings. Ala. Code of Ala. 1975 § 16-28-23.

Private schools, i.e. a profit or nonprofit entity as opposed to publicly owned or operated schools, which cease operations shall place student academic attendance and financial aid records in the following repository: (1) if merged, consolidated, or change of ownership, in the continuing school; (2) if part of a system, organization, franchise, or church ministry, in the administrative office; (3) if without system support, with the local superintendent of the public county or city. Code of Ala. 1975 § 16-46-3(e).

At the end of the fifth day from the opening of the public school, the principal teacher of each private school, but not church school, must report to the local superintendent the names and addresses of all children age 7-16 enrolled; and thereafter, at least weekly the names of students absent without excuse. Code of Ala. 1975 § 16-28-7.

At church schools, enrollment and attendance must be reported to the local public school superintendent by the parent or guardian on a form provided by the superintendent. The administrator of the church school countersigns the enrollment form. If a child leaves the church school, the church school will notify the local public school superintendent, by prior consent of the parent or guardian. Ala. Code § 16-28-7.

Length of School Year/Day: Under the compulsory attendance law, children attending private schools, but not church schools, are required to attend "the entire length of the school term." Ala. Code § 16-28-3.

Instruction in English: Private schools, but not church schools, are required to use the English language in giving instruction. Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1).

Teacher Certification: Instruction at private schools, but not church schools, must be provided by persons holding certificates issued by the state superintendent of education. Ala. Code § 16-28-1 (1)a, (2).

Curriculum: Private schools, but not church schools, are required to offer instruction in "the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools." Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1).

Private schools, but not church schools, must provide a physical education program which conforms to the program outlined by the Alabama Department of Education. Ala. Code § 16-40-1.

Health: A certificate of immunization or testing (as designated by the state health officer) is required prior to admittance to a private school. Ala. Code § 16-30-4.

No teacher or school administrator employed by a nonpublic school is excluded from participating in in-service teacher education institutes or curriculum development programs for drug abuse prevention provided under Chapter 41, Drug Abuse Education. Ala. Code § 16-41-5.

Safety: Alabama requires all private schools to conduct monthly fire drills and to have all doors and exits open out, and that all such doors and exits be unlocked during school hours. Ala. Code § 36-19-10.

Private school employers must check the sex crime records of job applicants or volunteers for positions having supervisory or disciplinary power over minors under 18 years of age. The Department of Public Safety will furnish the information to the requesting employer and may charge the employer a fee for the actual cost. Ala. Code § 26-20-1.

Private schools must fully meet the building code requirements unless the building was used for that purpose prior to the effective date of the code. Ala. Code § 41-9-163(c).

An additional penalty of 5 years incarceration, with no provision for probation, is imposed for the unlawful sale of a controlled substance on the campus of a private school or within a three-mile radius of the campus. Ala. Code § 13a-12-250.,

Transportation: A license tax or registration fee of $13.00 is imposed on motor buses owned by a church or a private school that are used only for the purposes of the institution. Ala. Code § 40-12-246 (d).

Home Schooling: Every child between the ages of 7 and 16 are required to attend a public school, private school, church school, or be instructed by a private tutor certified by the state of Alabama for the entire length of the school term in every scholastic subject. Parents who want to have their child instructed at home must either do so through a certified tutor or must qualify as a church school. Church schools offer instruction in grades K-12 or any combination thereof; are operated as a ministry of a local church or group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis; and do not receive any federal or state funding. Ala. Code §§ 16-28-1; 16-28-3. The enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school must be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent or guardian on a form provided. Ala. Code § 16-28-7.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: No money raised for the support of the public schools can be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian or denomination school. Alabama Constitution, Article 14, Section 263.

The Alabama state legislature is prohibited from taxing school property, real or personal. Alabama Constitution, Article 4, Section 91.

No teacher or school administrator employed by a nonpublic school is excluded from participating in in-service teacher education institutes or curriculum development programs for drug abuse prevention provided under Chapter 41, Drug Abuse Education. Ala. Code §16-41-5.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1999 - This information is presented for research use only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for further information.