Private School Regulation


Under Michigan law, the Superintendent of Public instruction has supervisory power over all private, denominational and parochial schools, i.e. schools other than public schools giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first 8 grades. The sanitary conditions, the courses of study, and the qualifications of the teachers are intended to meet the same standards provided under the general school laws of the state. Mich. Com. Laws §§ 388.551; 388.552.

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Nonpublic schools satisfying the compulsory school attendance statute must be approved by the state. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1561(3).

Length of School Year/Day: Regular attendance at a state approved nonpublic school satisfies the compulsory attendance statute. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1561.(3)(a).

Instruction in English: English must be the basic language of instruction in any nonpublic school. This mandate does not prohibit religious instruction in a foreign language, classes to become conversant in a foreign language, or bilingual instruction to assist limited English-speaking students. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1151.

Discrimination: Private schools are prohibited from discriminating against an individual based on a handicap that is unrelated to the individual's ability to utilize and benefit from the school or the individual's use of adaptive devices. In addition, private schools are prohibited from utilizing textbooks and learning materials that promote or foster physical or mental stereotypes. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 37.1401; 37.1402.

Teacher Certification: Under Michigan law, teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e. a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first 8 grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 388.552; 388.553. The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled this provision unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. People v. DeJonge, 442 Mich. 266 (Mich. 1993).

Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code r. 390.1142 (full-year permit); 390.1143 (substitute permit); and 390.1144 (emergency permit).

Curriculum: Attendance at a nonpublic school satisfies the compulsory attendance statute if the school teaches subjects comparable to those taught in the local public schools to children of corresponding age and grade. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1561(3)(a).

Nonpublic schools must provide regular instruction in the constitutions of the United States and Michigan, and the history and present form of government of the United States, Michigan, and its political subdivisions. The successful completion of a 1-semester course in civics is required prior to graduation. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1166.

The state board of education is charged with developing a recommended model core curriculum for the local school districts. The curriculum defines the outcomes to be achieved by all K-12 pupils. The Board will make the model curriculum available to nonpublic schools for their consideration in developing their own core curriculum. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1278(6).

The State Board of Education is authorized to develop guidelines for expanding curriculum on the culture of ethnic, religious, and racial minority peoples, and the contributions of women. The guidelines must be made available to nonpublic schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1174.

Special Education: The policy of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education and early Intervention Services on this matter is stated in Michigan's Special Education State plan:

The Michigan Auxiliary Services Act and related rules require that all school districts provide students enrolled in nonpublic schools with a genuine opportunity for equitable participation in special education services in accordance with requirements established by the School Code of 1976 and the IDEA. R 340.293 of the Administrative Rules requires school districts to notify in writing, no later than April 1 of each school year, all private or nonpublic schools within each district as to the available programs and services. Private nonpublic schools are then to respond by indicating which of those services they anticipate will be needed. Administrative Rules R340.293.

The procedures for referral, evaluation, determination of eligibility, and IEP development are the same as those presented in this Plan. The public agency which provides a child with disabilities in a private school special education and/or related services shall initiate and conduct meetings to develop, review, and revise an IEP for a child and ensure participation of the private/parochial school representative in these meetings. The public agency will provide the special education and/or related services in accordance with the child?s IEP. However, the agency, teacher, or other person cannot be held accountable if the child with disabilities does not achieve the growth projected in the annual goals and objectives.

Special education programs are available at public schools to nonpublic school students who are dually enrolled.

Health: Children registering for the first time in a school must present a certificate of immunization, a statement of exemption based on a physician's recommendation or a religious conviction. A school administrator must not admit a student unless he has received a minimum of one dose of immunizing agent against each disease specified or is exempt. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 333.9208, 9215; 380.1177. Before November 1 of each year, the school administrator must submit to the local health departments the immunization status of new entering students. By February 1, the administrator must update the list for incoming students. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 333.9209 and 380.1177. If the immunization level of a nonpublic school falls below the level necessary to guard against the spread of the disease, the school may make the immunization requirements a condition for admission. Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.9212.

Private school students entering kindergarten must submit evidence of a preschool vision screening test prior to enrollment unless the parents/guardians submit a statement that the test is contrary to their religious convictions. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1177(2).

Michigan's statutory prohibition against smoking in a public place or at a meeting of a public body does not apply to private educational facilities after regularly scheduled school hours. Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.12603.

Safety: Prior to either employing or making an offer of employment to a teacher, administrator, substitute teacher, school nurse, school psychologist, or other certified (State Board of Education approved) personnel, a non-public school must request a criminal history check on the applicant through both the Department of State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 1992 MI Public Act 99 and 1995 MI Public Act 83.

Non-public schools may, under certain conditions, "conditionally employ" a teacher, administrator, substitute teacher, school nurse, or school psychologist until the results of the criminal records check are received. The Department of State Police is required to respond within 30 days. 1993 MI Public Act 68.

The superintendent, chief administrative officer of a non-public school, or the president of a school board of a public or non-public school is required to notify the State Board of Education of a certified teacher, school administrator, school counselor, etc. who has been convicted of any felony or certain misdemeanors. 1995 MI Public Act 97.

K-12 nonpublic schools must comply with federal standards requiring implementation of operations and maintenance plans for educational facilities containing asbestos or asbestos-containing materials. 1993 MI Public Act 51.

School buses with seating capacity of 12 or more and used by nonpublic schools are subject to annual inspections by the Department of State Police. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.715a.

Transportation: Under the Michigan State Constitution, the state legislature may provide transportation to and from school for nonpublic school students. Michigan Const. Art. 8, Sec. 2. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1217. Local school districts that provide transportation to resident pupils must provide free transportation to nonpublic school students with some limitations. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1321, 1322.

The advisory committee to the Department of Education on school bus matters includes a member representing nonpublic schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.1870.

Home Schooling: State laws pertaining to private schools also pertain to home schooling.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The Michigan Constitution prohibits public appropriations for the benefit of any religious sect or society. Michigan Const. Art. 1, Sec. 4. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1217.

The Michigan Constitution prohibits public appropriations directly or indirectly to aid or maintain nonpublic pre-elementary, elementary or secondary schools. Michigan Const. Art. 8, Sec. 2. The Michigan Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to prohibit public payment of lay teachers in nonpublic schools; the provision is not a bar to nonpublic school student participation in federally subsidized programs designed to aid educationally deprived elementary and secondary school children, shared time programs, special education services, and drivers training. Traverse City School District v. Attorney General, 185 N.W. 2d 9 (Mich. 1971).

Property owned and occupied by nonprofit religious or educational organizations and used exclusively for religious or educational purposes, is exempt from real and personal property taxes. Michigan Const. Art. 9, Sec. 4.

Nonpublic schools are exempt from the Michigan general sales tax for the purchase of tangible personal property including textbooks. Mich. Comp. Laws § 205.54a.

Nonpublic school students may participate in shared time instruction, such as band, art, domestic science, shop, advanced math, and science at the local public schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1147. Snyder v. Charlotte Public School District, 365 N.W.2d 151 (Mich. 1985).

Examinations or health services provided to elementary and secondary students must be provided on an equal basis to children in public and nonpublic schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.9105.

Local school districts that provide auxiliary services must provide the same services to nonpublic school students on an equal basis. Auxiliary services include: health and nursing services and examinations; street crossing guard services; speech and language services; school social work services; school psychological services; teacher consultant services for handicapped pupils and other ancillary services for the handicapped; remedial reading; and other services determined by the legislature. Mich. Comp. Laws  §380.1296. Transportation to the auxiliary services must also be provided, with some limitations. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1296.

Educational media centers operated by intermediate school districts to provide teaching materials and services may serve nonpublic schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.671(2).

Nonpublic school students may participate in the mathematics and science centers funded by the state to provide accelerated and innovative instruction in mathematics, science, and computer science. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.1699.

Nonpublic schools are reimbursed, on an equal basis with public schools, for school bus safety education costs incurred for the benefit of school bus drivers. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.1851.

State grants for vocational-technical education are conditioned on acceptance of nonpublic school pupils. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.686.

Miscellaneous: The Michigan Constitution recognizes, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Michigan Const. Art. 8, Sec. 1.

Before the construction or remodeling of any private school building is commenced, the Superintendent of Public Instruction must give written approval. The building specifications must meet certain standards outlined by statute. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.851.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction, or his agent, has the authority to investigate a nonpublic school at any time regarding the school's sanitary condition, records of enrollment, courses of study, and teacher qualifications. A nonpublic school must admit the Superintendent or his agents to the school. A nonpublic school's refusal is sufficient cause to suspend the operation of the school. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.555.

Private school teachers, administrators and librarians are exempt from Michigan's criminal code provision prohibiting the dissemination of sexually explicit material to minors. Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.676.

Private, denominational and parochial schools, i.e. schools other than public schools giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first 8 grades, found in violation of the Nonpublic School Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.551 et seq., are entitled to a hearing on the matter. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.554.

Nonpublic schools may establish academic or attendance standards, or both, as eligibility requirements for students enrolled in a driver education course conducted by the school. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1302.

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.