Private School Regulation


California provides significant educational opportunities and health programs to private school students.

Recordkeeping/Reports: Private schools are required to maintain a record of attendance for students. Every absence for a half day or more must be documented. Cal. Ed. Code § 48222.

Private school parents have an absolute right to access any and all pupil records related to their children that are maintained by the school. Editing or withholding records is prohibited. Cal. Ed. Code §§ 49069, 49061.

Whenever a pupil transfers from a public school district to private school, or transfers from a private school to a school district, the pupil's permanent record or a copy thereof must be transferred by the former district or private school upon request. Parents have a right to receive a copy of the record and to challenge the content of the record at a hearing. Cal. Educ. Code § 49068, 49070.

Private schools must maintain for one year a record of the school bus safety instruction provided by the school. The record must indicate the name and location of school, date of instruction, supervising adults, number of participating students, grade levels, subjects covered, time taken for instruction, bus driver's name, and bus number. The record is subject to inspection by the Department of the California Highway Patrol. Cal. Educ. Code § 39831.5. (See Transportation.)

Private schools are required to file an affidavit with the Superintendent of Public Instruction between the first and fifteenth day of October of each year. The affidavit must contain the following information: 1) all names under which it has done and is doing business; 2) address of every place of business in California; 3) location of records and custodian of records; 4) names and addresses of directors and principal officers; 5) school enrollment by grades, number of teachers, coeducational or enrollment limited to boys or girls and boarding facilities; 6) that school attendance records, courses of study, and faculty information records maintained by the school are true and accurate; and 7) that criminal record summary information for employees has been obtained pursuant to Section 44237. Cal Educ. Code § 33190. Where the instructor also serves as the school administrator, the affidavit must be made available upon request to the parents/guardians of students or prospective students. Cal Educ. Code § 33191.

County boards of education may require private schools to report the withdrawal of any student, whether by severance, expulsion, exclusion, exemption, transfer, or suspension beyond 10 school days. The report must include names, ages, last known address and the reason for withdrawal. Cal Educ. Code § 48202(a). Private schools are required to report the withdrawal (as defined above) or denial of admission of physically handicapped, mentally retarded, or multiple handicapped students to the county superintendent. Cal Educ. Code § 48203.

Instruction in English: English is the basic language of instruction in all schools. The governing board of any private school may determine when and under what circumstances instruction may be given bilingually. Pupils proficient in English and fluent in a foreign language may be instructed in classes conducted in that foreign language. Cal Educ. Code § 30.

Private schools must be taught in the English language except when educationally advantageous to pupils. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48222,30.

Discrimination: Individuals with disabilities are entitled to full and equal access as other members of the general public to private schools. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1.

Teacher Certification: Children instructed in private full-time day schools by "persons capable of teaching" are exempt from public school attendance under the compulsory education law. Cal. Educ. Code § 48222.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing must forward to private schools on a monthly basis a list of all teachers who have had their state teaching credential revoked or suspended. The Commission must also send on a quarterly basis a complete and updated list of all teachers who have had their teaching credentials revoked or suspended, excluding teachers who have had their credentials reinstated, or who are deceased. Cal Educ. Code § 44237(g). Private schools may request information regarding the fitness of any applicant for a teaching position from the Commission. Cal Educ. Code § 44341(d).

Curriculum: Students attending private schools are exempt from California's compulsory attendance law if the schools offer instruction in the several branches of study required in the public schools of the state. Cal. Educ. Code § 48222.

Special Education: California's Community Mental Health Services publicly place students with serious emotional disturbances in private schools. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 5852.5, 5864, 5865, 5877.

Private schools serving exceptional need students under a state contract must comply with state provisions governing the suspension of pupils with previously identified exceptional needs and the use of behavioral interventions with exceptional need students. Cal. Educ. Code § 48911, 48911.5.

Nonpublic schools are represented on California's Local Pilot Program Advisory Committee serving students with exceptional needs. The pilot program was established for the 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-95 fiscal years to design effective mainstreaming programs in the public schools for students currently publicly placed in private facilities. Cal. Educ. Code § 56728.7(d)(1).

California publicly places students with exceptional needs in nonpublic, nonsectarian schools. Individual education program team members and or parents may request a private school placement based on the educational needs of the child. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 56342, 56365, 56365.5, 56730.6.

Health: California provides financial assistance to private and parochial schools under the Child Nutrition Program. The funding reimburses the school cafeteria accounts based upon the number of qualifying meals served to students. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 41311, 49530.5, 49531.

Private elementary and secondary schools cannot unconditionally admit a student unless he has been fully immunized for: diphtheria, haemophilus influenzae type b (except for children who have reached the age of 4 years, six months), measles, mumps and pertussis (except for students who have reached 7 years), poliomyelitis, rubella, tetanus and any other disease deemed appropriate by the State Department of Health Services. Cal. Health and Safety Code § 3381.

Prior to employment at a private or parochial elementary or secondary school, individuals must present a certificate showing that they have been examined within the last 60 days found to be free of communicable tuberculosis. Additional testing is required at least once each four years or more if directed by the school. The private school is responsible for maintaining up-to-date certificates for each person covered. Private schools have the discretion to waive this requirement for employees who are employed less than a school year and who do not have frequent or prolonged contact with pupils. Employees transporting students must provide a certificate unless they transport students on an infrequent basis not to exceed once a month. Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 3450, 3453. Volunteers must also present a certificate that they have been found free of communicable tuberculosis within the last 4 years. At the discretion of the governing authority of a private school, this section shall not apply to volunteers whose functions do not necessitate frequent or prolonged contact with pupils. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 3454.

Under the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program for Medicaid Recipients, private schools with first grade students and/or kindergartners are required to report by January 15 of each year to the State Department of Health Services and the State Department of Education: (1) the total number of children enrolled in first grade; (2) the number of children who have had a health screening examination; and (3) the number of children whose parents waived the health screening examination. Private schools serving first graders and/or kindergartners must inform parents of this provision. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 324.2.

Private elementary and secondary students are eligible to receive the topical application of fluoride or other decay-inhibiting agent to the teeth through the State Department of Health Services within the school year. Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 3500, 3501, 3503, 3504 and 3505.

Safety: Private school buildings are subject to an annual inspection through the State Fire Marshall's office. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 13146.3.

Private schools entirely enclosed (except for building walls) by fences or walls must maintain gates of sufficient size to permit the entrance of ambulances, police equipment, and fire fighting apparatus. Locking devices must be designed to permit ready entrance by chain or bolt cutting devices. Cal. Educ. Code § 32020.

The local sheriff or chief of police will immediately notify a private school if any of the school employees are arrested for controlled substance offenses. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11591(3).

California requires new noncertified employees at private elementary and high schools having contact with minor pupils to obtain criminal record summaries from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. DOJ will provide the records to the designated private school employers to be maintained in a secured file separate from personnel files. The criminal record summary will include only arrests resulting in conviction or pending final adjudication for any sex offense, controlled substance offense, or crime of violence. Cal. Educ. Code § 44237(a), (b), (c).

Private schools have a duty to equip schools with eye protective devices for students, teachers and visitors and to require eye protective devices to be worn when observing or participating in an activity where the use of hazardous substances are likely to cause injury to the eyes. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 32030-32032.

Private schools are required to equip the school with a first aid kit to accompany pupils whenever they are taken on school-sponsored field trips. Cal. Educ. Code § 32040. When field trips are taken into areas commonly known to be infested by poisonous snakes, the first aid kit must contain medically accepted snakebite remedies. The field trip must be accompanied by an agent of the school who has completed a course in first aid certified by the American Red Cross which emphasizes the treatment of snakebites. Cal. Educ. Code § 32043.

Art and craft materials deemed to contain a toxic substance by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment or a toxic substance causing chronic illness are prohibited for use by students in K-6 grade private schools. Materials containing toxic substances causing chronic illness may not be used by students in 7-12 grade private schools unless it meets labeling standards. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 32064-66.

Any public school building approved by the Department of General Services for occupancy is deemed to meet the local building requirements for use as a private school. Cal. Educ. Code § 39156.

Private schools are subject to the provisions of the "Private Schools Building Safety Act of 1986" to ensure that children attending private schools are afforded equivalent earthquake safety as afforded public school students. The Act regulates the design and structure of private schools and provides for inspections by an enforcement agency. The Act defines "private school structure" as "any building used for educational purposes through the 12th grade by 50 or more persons for more than 12 hours per week or 4 hours in any one day." Certain structures 2,000 square feet or less in floor area are exempt. Cal. Educ. Code § 39160 et seq.

Persons 18 years of age or over who unlawfully sell heroin, cocaine, cocaine base or any analog of these substances, within 1,000 feet of private school grounds when minors are using the facility, will receive additional imprisonment in the state prison for two years. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11353, 11353.1(a)(2).

The governing board of each private school must establish an earthquake emergency procedure system in every private school building having an occupant capacity of 50 or more pupils or more than one classroom. The earthquake emergency procedure system must include: 1) a school building disaster plan; b) a drop procedure; 3) protective measures to be taken before, during, and following an earthquake; and 4) a program to ensure students and staff are trained in the earthquake emergency procedure system. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 35295-35297.

Persons in charge of private schools may not allow any cup or glass to be used in common for drinking purposes. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 3700.

Transportation: County Superintendents may provide transportation to pupils attending private schools upon the same terms, in the same manner and over the same routes as provided for pupils attending public schools. The authorization is limited to actual transportation and not transportation payments of money. Cal. Educ. Code § 48222; Cal. Educ. Code § 39808.

State subsidized transportation for children attending parochial schools is proper under the California Constitution in view of the broad police powers of the state to promote educational welfare and safety of the children. Bowker v. Baker, 167 P.2d 256 (1946).

California distinguishes between school buses, school pupil activity buses, and youth buses in the applicable provisions of the vehicle code. Cal. Vehicle Code §§ 492, 545, 546, 680, 2808, and 12517; Cal. Educ. Code § 39830, 39831. Private schools are subject to the same statutes, rules, and regulations relating to construction, design, operation, equipment, and color of school buses that apply to public schools unless exempt by the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol by rule or regulation. Cal. Veh. Code §§ 2808.

Private schools are required to provide instruction in school bus emergency procedures and passenger safety for students transported in a school bus or school pupil activity bus. The instruction must be given at least once a year to all transported pupils pre-K through grade 8. In addition, safety instruction must be given prior to departures on a school activity trip including instruction on the location of emergency exits and location and use of emergency equipment. A record must be maintained by the school for one year documenting the details of the instruction. Cal. Educ. Code § 39831.5.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The California Constitution prohibits the appropriation of public money for the support of sectarian or denominational schools or any other school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools. Cal. Const. Art. IX. Section 8. In addition, Art. XVI. Section 5. prohibits any public support for a school controlled by any religious creed, church, or sectarian denomination, including any grant of personal property or real estate.

The lending of textbooks, without charge, to students attending nonprofit, nonpublic schools violates the California Constitution prohibiting appropriations for the support of sectarian schools. Cal. Teachers Assoc. v. Riles, 632 P.2d 953 (1981).

County superintendents of schools may enter into agreements with nonpublic private schools to provide for the use of audiovisual curriculum materials, including equipment and apparatus. The agreement must provide for an amount of payment equal to the cost incurred in connection with the handling, loss, destruction, or damage to the audiovisual curriculum materials. Such agreements may only be entered into when such materials are not needed by the public schools or the county superintendent. Cal. Educ. Code § 1251.

Nonpublic schools, i.e. schools satisfying attendance recordkeeping requirements and exempt from taxation, may order instructional materials from the state board. Cal. Educ. Code § 60310.

County superintendents of schools may enter into agreements with nonpublic private schools to provide programs and classes in outdoor science education and conservation education for private school students. The private school must pay for the actual cost of providing the programs or classes. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 8763, 8766-67.

Private schools are exempt from state park fees for school field trips arranged through the Department of Parks and Monuments. The exemption extends to pupils K-12, their escorts, teachers, supervisory personnel, and bus drivers. (Hearst San Simeon State Historic Monument excluded.) Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 5010.2.

The California legislature may exempt property used exclusively for religious purposes and held by a nonprofit corporation from property tax under the California Constitution. Cal. Const. Art.XIII. Section 4. Church-related schools may be required to file factual statements to qualify for the exemption. 62 Ops. Atty. Gen. 690, 11-9-79.

The state legislature has provided that property used exclusively for school purposes of less than collegiate grade are exempt from taxation if the school meets certain requirements. Cal. Rev. & T. Code § 214. Tax exempt status for parochial K through 12 schools under § 214 is constitutional since a nonprofit school has a charitable purpose. Lundberg v. County of Alameda, 298 P.2d 1 (1956).

Private schools and nonprofit parent-teacher associations are "consumers" rather than "retailers" for sales tax purposes with respect to 1) yearbooks and catalogs prepared for distribution to students by the school and 2) tangible personal property sold by the parent-teacher organization if the profits are used exclusively for the organization. Ca. Rev. & T. Code § 6361.5, 6370.

School meals provided to students by private schools are exempt from sales tax. The exemption does not apply if the food is sold for consumption within a place subject to an admission charge, except for national and state parks and monuments. Ca. Rev. & T. Code § 6363.

State agencies have the authority to enter into vocational education contracts with approved private schools to provide training and retraining programs for students. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 8090-92.

Miscellaneous: Private schools are assured one representative appointment on the 20-member Educational Innovation and Planning Commission. Cal. Educ. Code § 33502.

Private schools may withhold grades, diplomas, or transcripts based on a minor's willful misconduct that results in personal injury or property damage until reparations are made. The school must afford the student his due process rights and notify the parents in writing before taking any action. Cal. Educ. Code § 48904(b).

County superintendents may authorize private school officials to issue work permits to students in accordance with state provisions governing the employment of minors. Cal. Educ. Code § 49110.1

Private high schools are eligible to apply for permission to establish cadet companies, battalions, or regiments of the California Cadet Corps. Cal. Military and Veterans Code § 520.1

Under California law, private schools may not be converted to charter schools. Cal. Educ. Code § 47602(b).

Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Councils funded by the state shall encourage inclusion of private school representatives. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 18982.1


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.