Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Attendance at a private school satisfies the compulsory attendance requirement if the school is approved by the school committee. School committees will approve a private school when satisfied that the instruction equals the public schools in the same town in thoroughness and efficiency and in the progress made. A school committee may not withhold approval based on the school's religious teaching. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 76, § 1. (The "school committee" in Massachusetts is the local educational agency.)

Recordkeeping/Reports: The supervisory officers of all private schools must report the name, age and residence of any child enrolled in the school to the superintendent of schools of the town where such children reside within 30 days of enrollment. If a child withdraws from the school, the officers must notify the superintendent within 10 days. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 72, § 2.

The local superintendent of schools files an annual report with the Commissioner of Education on or before May 1st on the number of pupils enrolled in nonpublic schools within the district. The information is collected during the months of January and February. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 72, § 2A.

Private school administrators and teachers are required to provide information or reports requested by any justice relating to the attendance, conduct, and standing of any pupil enrolled, if the pupil is awaiting examination or trial or is under the supervision of the court. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 119, § 69.

Persons operating an education institution have an obligation to provide a written transcript of a student, or former student, at his request. The first copy must be provided free. Schools may charge a fee for duplicates not exceeding one dollar for each page, but not exceeding five dollars for an entire transcript. Anyone denied a transcript may petition the courts for relief. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 71, §§ 34A, 34B.

Special Education: Students requiring special education may be placed in a public or private special education program in accordance with regulations of the Department (Board) of Education. Mass.Gen. L. ch. 71B, §10. School committees may authorize the prepayment of tuition for a period not exceeding 3 months to any approved private school. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 71, § 71D.

Eligible private school students are entitled to receive genuine opportunities to participate in public school special education programs. St. 1999, c. 127, § 258.

Health: Pupils attending private schools may receive screening for sight, hearing, and other physical defects through the local school committee or board of health at the request of a parent/guardian, providing the private school is approved and does not discriminate in its entrance requirements on the basis of race or color. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 71, § 57.

No person suffering from tuberculosis in a communicable form may be employed by a private school. Prior to beginning employment, school employees must file with the school administrator a report certifying their freedom from tuberculosis in a communicable form. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 71, § 55B.

Safety: Private school teachers who have reasonable cause to believe a child under 18 is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse or from neglect are under an obligation to immediately report the condition either to the Department of Social Services or to the school administrator, who is then responsible for notifying the Department of Social Services. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 119, § 51A.

Persons apprehended for manufacturing or distributing controlled substances within 1000 feet of a private elementary, vocational, or secondary school will receive a mandatory sentence of not less than 2 years. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 94C, § 32J.

Each institution of secondary education must file, at least annually, a report with the board of education certifying that the school has informed its students of the hazing prohibition and adopted and disseminated a disciplinary policy with regard to the organizers and participants of hazing. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 269, § 19.

Transportation: Pupils who attend approved private schools are entitled to the same rights and privileges to transportation to and from school as are provided by law for public school students, within specified limits. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 76, § 1.

Street or elevated railway companies must provide special rates for public and private school students during the days or evenings when school is in session not to exceed 1/2 of the regular fare. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 161, § 108.

Home Schooling: Home education programs are subject to the same standard of approval as a private school under Mass. General Laws Chapter 76, § 1, that is, the instruction in all studies required by law equals in thoroughness, efficiency, and progress of the child, that in the public schools of the same town. In Care and Protection of Charles, 399 Mass. 324 (1987), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the approval process under General Laws Chapter 76, § 1 was constitutionally permissible. The court set forth guidelines for parents and school officials in considering home education plans:

  • Procedures: Parents must obtain approval from the superintendent or school committee prior to removing the child from the public school or beginning a home education program. The parents must demonstrate that the home education proposal meets the requirements of General Laws Chapter 76.

  • Approval factors: The superintendent or school committee may consider the following in deciding whether or not to approve a home education proposal—The number of hours of instruction, the length of the proposed school year, the proposed subjects, the competency of the parents to teach, and the instructional materials to be used. The superintendent or school committee may require periodic standardized testing or other evaluations of the student?s educational progress. However, the Supreme Judicial Court held in Brunella v. Lynn Public Schools 428 Mass 512 (1998) that home visits by public school officials may not be required as a condition of approval of a home education plan.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The Massachusetts Constitution provides that no appropriation of public money may be made to aid a primary or secondary school that is not publicly owned and under the exclusive control of public officers authorized by the Commonwealth. Mass. Const. Ann. Amend. Art. 18 ? 120. Textbook loans to pupils of private schools violates the state constitution. Bloom v. School Committee of Springfield, 379 N.E.2d 578 (1978).

Private school property is exempt from property taxation as a "literary, benevolent, charitable and scientific institution." Mass. Gen. L. ch. 59, § 5. Board of Assessors v. Garland School of Home Making, 6 N.E.2d 374 (1937).

Miscellaneous: Private and parochial school students, grades 4-8, may operate a student bank with the approval of the governing board of the school. The student bank must be: 1) conducted as an educational program; 2) managed by the students; 3) accept deposits and sell shares from personnel and students, but not to exceed $500; and, 4) be liquidated at the close of the school year with the assets distributed among the shareholders or depositors. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 167, § 37B.

By statute, one of the 14-member Massachusetts Educational Communications Commission is a representative of private elementary and secondary education. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 6, § 158.

Massachusetts Art Week is celebrated the last week of May and private schools are encouraged to observe the tradition by the display of works of art and appropriate exhibitions and ceremonies. Mass. Gen. L. ch. 6, § 15D.

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.