Private School Regulation

North Carolina

It is the public policy of North Carolina in matters of education that "No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience," or with religious liberty and that "religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind . . . the means of education shall forever be encouraged." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-547.

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Children in North Carolina may attend private church schools or schools of religious charter under § 115C-547 et seq., or nonpublic schools which qualify under § 115C-555 et seq. Delconte v. State, 329 S.E.2d 636 (1985). Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools which comply with these controlling provisions are not subject to any other educational provisions except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115c-554, 562. (Although N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-378 refers to "approved nonpublic schools," according to the North Carolina Department of Education, in practice, nonpublic schools are not approved by the Department.)

Qualified nonpublic schools are schools that are 1) accredited by the State Board of Education; 2) accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; 3) active members of the North Carolina Association of Independent schools; or, 4) schools that receive no funding from the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-555.

Private church schools or schools of religious charter must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the State designated by the Governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-552(a), 553.

Recordkeeping/Reports: Private church schools or schools of religious charter must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each student. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548. Private church schools or schools of religious charter must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the State designated by the Governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-552(a), 553. When the school terminates operation, the school must also notify the State's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-552(b). Private schools operated by any church or other organized religious group that complies with the requirements under § 115C-547 et seq. are not subject to any other provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation and immunization.

Qualified nonpublic schools must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each pupil enrolled and regularly attending classes. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-556. Qualified nonpublic schools must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the State designated by the Governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-560(a). When the school terminates operation, the school must also notify the State's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-560(b). Qualified nonpublic schools that comply with the requirements under § 115C-555 et seq., are not subject to any other provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation and immunization.

Length of School Year/Day: Attendance at a private church school or school of religious charter satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least 9 calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548.

Attendance at a qualified nonpublic school satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least 9 calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-556.

To satisfy the compulsory attendance statute, attendance at a approved nonpublic school must be for a period equal to the time the local public school is in session. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-378.

Curriculum: Private church schools or schools of religious charter must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grades three, six and nine at least once each school year. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics. The results of the test must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-549. Private church schools or schools of religious charter must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grade eleven to measure competencies in the verbal and quantitative areas. The school must establish a minimum score for graduation. Test results must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-550. Private church schools or schools of religious charter may participate voluntarily in high school competency testing and statewide testing programs. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-551.

Qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grades three, six and nine at least once each school year. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics.The results of the test must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-557. Qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grade eleven to measure competencies in the verbal and quantitative areas. The school must establish a minimum score for graduation. Test results must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-558. Qualified nonpublic schools may participate voluntarily in high school competency testing and statewide testing programs. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-559.

The State Board of Education may use tests to assure that graduates of nonpublic schools supervised by the State Board of Education possess the skills and knowledge necessary to function independently and successfully in assuming the responsibilities of citizenship. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-174.11(b).

Private school students may enroll in driver education programs offered by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction at local public high schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-88.1.

Special Education: North Carolina publicly places students requiring special education in private schools without cost to the parents. The private schools must meet standards that apply to State and local educational agencies and secure the rights the students would have if served by the State or local educational agency. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-115. Students with special needs may be transported by public school buses to and from the nearest appropriate private school having a special education program approved by the state if the child is publicly placed by the State or local school administrative unit. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115c-242(1).

Health: Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to the state requirements respecting sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-554, 562.

No child may attend a K-12 private or religious school unless a certificate of immunization is presented to the school or the child has received a medical or religious exemption. If a certification of immunization is not presented on the first day of classes, the principal must present a notice of deficiency to the parent/guardian. The parent has 30 days to obtain the required immunizations and additional days if needed upon certification of a physician. Upon termination of the 30 days or the extended period, the principal shall not permit the child to attend the school unless the child has been immunized or has obtained the necessary exemption. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-155, 157.

Children entering kindergarten in private church schools, schools of religious charter, or qualified nonpublic schools are exempt from the state's statutory requirement for health assessments. (By inference, kindergarten students enrolled in approved nonpublic schools must receive a health assessment prior to admission. The assessment must include a medical history and physical examination with screening for vision and hearing, and if appropriate, testing for anemia and tuberculosis.) N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130-440.

Safety: Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to reasonable fire, health and safety inspections by State, county and municipal authorities as required by law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548, 554, 556, 562.

Private schools must conduct at least one fire drill every month during the regular school session in each building where children are assembled. The Commissioner of Insurance, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education are under a duty to provide instructions for properly conducting fire drills. October 9th of every year is set aside as "Fire Prevention Day." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-79-35.

Private schools must provide eye protective devices free of charge to students and teachers participating in shop or laboratory classes involving hazardous materials as defined by statute. Students and teachers are required to wear the devices at all times when participating in such a program. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-166.

The Board of Transportation or local authorities may set lower speed limits for areas adjacent to private or parochial schools to be enforced on days when schools are in session. N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 20-141.1

The North Carolina Department of Justice may provide a criminal record check to nonpublic school employers for school employees and/or applicants if the individual consents to a record check. The Department will charge a reasonable fee not to exceed the actual cost of locating, editing, researching, and retrieving the information. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 114-19.2(b), (c).

Any person who wantonly and willfully sets fire to a private school or attempts to set fire to a private school commits a felony. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-60, 67.

It is illegal to carry any gun, rifle, pistol, dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine, powerful explosive, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switch-blade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles or any other weapon of like kind on private school property unless for instructional or sanctioned ceremonial purposes. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.2.

North Carolina's criminal law makes it a misdemeanor to engage in disorderly conduct by disrupting the teaching of students at any private educational institution. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-288.4.

Transportation: See Special Education.

Home Schooling: A home school means a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two families or households receive academic instruction from parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-563.

Home schools elect to be either a Private Church School or School of Religious Character. or a . Qualified Nonpublic School. . The person providing instruction in the home school must hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-564.

Any new home school must send a notice of intent to operate to the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education. Notice must be provided when the home school is terminated. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-552; 560

Any new school may, on a voluntary basis, participate in any State operated or sponsored program which would otherwise be available to such school, including but not limited to the high school competency testing and statewide testing programs. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-551; 559.

Home schools must maintain records to ensure that students are immunized. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548; 556. Students attending home school must be tested academically once each year through a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics for students and verbal and quantitative areas for grade 11 students. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-549; 550; 558; 559.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The North Carolina Constitution provides that the state school fund and the county school funds must be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for free public schools. N.C. Const. Art. IX, Sec. 6, 7.

The North Carolina Constitution provides that the General Assembly may exempt property held for educational purposes from state and local taxation. N.C. Const. Art. V, Sec. 2.

Food sold not for profit by private school cafeterias within school buildings during the regular school day are exempt from state retail sales tax. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-164.13(26).

State law authorizes the State Board of Education or any other state agency to provide instructional materials purchased with federal funds for the use of children and teachers in private elementary and secondary schools as required by acts of Congress. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-409(b).

Miscellaneous: Information acquired by a certified private school counselor through student counseling is privileged unless the student waives the privilege or a judge compels disclosure. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8-53.4.

The Secretary of State distributes one copy of the North Carolina Manual biennially to private schools containing grades 8-12. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 147-54.



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.