Private School Regulation
Private schools in Rhode Island must be approved by the school
committee. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-29-8.
Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Attendance at private schools
satisfies Rhode Island's compulsory attendance law if the private school
is approved by the school committee. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-29-8,
16-19-1. Rhode Island approves private schools that comply with the following
requirements: 1) the period of attendance is substantially equal to that
required in public schools; 2) registers of attendance are kept and returned
to the school committee, superintendent of schools, truant officers, and
the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; 3) instruction is
provided in reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, the history of the
United States and Rhode Island, and the principles of American government
are taught in the English language substantially to the same extent as
required in the public schools; 4) the teaching of the English language
and other subjects is thorough and efficient, provided instruction may
occur in any other language in addition to English; 5) instruction is provided
in the principles of popular and representative government under the Rhode
Island and United States constitutions; and 6) instruction in health and
physical education similar to that required in public schools is provided.
The commissioner will grant a hearing to private schools that are denied
approval. On appeal, the decision of the Board of Regents is final. R.I.
Gen. Laws §§ 16-19-2, 16-22-2, 16-22-4, 16-60-4 (10).
Recordkeeping/Reports: Private school teachers must keep a register
of the names of all students, their sex and age, names of parents or guardians,
the time when each student enters and leaves the school, and their daily
attendance. Private schools are obligated to prepare reports required by
the school committee or Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-12-4.
Length of School Year/Day: The period of attendance for private
schools must be substantially equal to that required in public schools.
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.
Instruction in English: Approved private schools must provide
instruction in the English language, provided instruction may occur in
any other language in addition to English. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.
Curriculum: Approved private schools must provide curriculum in
reading; writing; geography; arithmetic; the history of the United States
and Rhode Island; the principles of American government in the English
language substantially to the same extent as required in the public schools;
thorough and efficient instruction in the English language and other subjects,
provided instruction may occur in any other language in addition to English;
and, instruction in health and physical education similar to that required
in public schools. Approved private schools must also provide instruction
in the principles of popular and representative government as enunciated
in the Constitution of Rhode Island and the United States substantially
equivalent to that required for public schools. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-19-2,
Health: Students entering private schools must furnish evidence
of immunization as prescribed by regulation of the Director of Health and
the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, or a certificate
from a licensed physician stating the student is not a fit subject for
immunization for medical reasons or a certificate signed by the parent/guardian
stating that immunization is contrary to their beliefs. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-38-2.
Safety: Private schools must comply with building code standards
established by the state building code standards committee. By August 1
of each year, the local fire chief, local building inspector, the director
of the State Department of Health and the director of the State Labor Department
must determine and notify the private schools as to whether the schools
conform to state law and regulation. Private school officials must ensure
that schools are not opened until notification is received; neglect is
a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-3,
Private schools having more than 25 pupils must instruct and train the
pupils by means of drills to leave school buildings in an emergency in
the shortest possible time and without confusion or panic. Fifteen drills
are required annually, at least 8 held during September, October, and November.
At least 4 drills must be obstructed, i.e. at least 1 or more exits
and stairways blocked; 2 of the obstructed drills must be held during September
and October. Neglect by a private school to comply is a misdemeanor punishable
by a fine not exceeding $500. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-4.
Private schools must provide students, teachers, and visitors, approved
eye protective devices for specified vocational or industrial arts classes
and chemical laboratory classes. Students and teachers are required to
wear protective devices at all times while participating in the courses.
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-15.
Retail licenses to sell alcoholic beverages are restricted in areas within
200 feet of any private or parochial K-12 school. R.I. Gen. Laws § 3-7-19.
Willful disturbance of a private school is a criminal offense punishable
by imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $500. R.I.
Gen. Laws § 11-11-1.
It is a criminal offense to willfully trespass on private school property
after being suspended from attendance or forbidden by a police officer,
guard or school official, punishable by incremental fines for repeated
offenses. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-44-26.1.
Possession of a firearm on private school grounds, except for educational
purposes, is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for not less
than one year nor more than five years, or a fine not less than $500 nor
more than $5,000. R.I. Gen. Laws § 1-47-60.
Transportation: School committees must provide transportation
to and from school for elementary and high school pupils attending private
schools if the pupil resides so far from the school as to make the pupil's
attendance impractical, or if a student's physical disability or infirmity
would make attendance impracticable. Private schools operated for profit
are not eligible. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-21-1, 1-1, 1-2. As long
as eligibility is determined by the same criterion for public and parochial
school students and the relative costs remain roughly proportional, the
provision of transportation does not advance religion and is constitutional. Jamestown
School Comm. v. Schmidt, 699 F.2d 1 (1st Cir.), cert. denied,
464 U.S. 851 (1983).
Home Schooling: Approval of home instruction occurs at the local
level. At-home instruction is approved when it complies with the following
requirements: the period of attendance is substantially equal to that required
in public schools; attendance registers and registers indicating the amount
of daily instruction by subject are kept; and reading, writing, geography,
arithmetic, U.S. history, Rhode Island history, and principles of American
government are taught in the English language. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.
Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Private
schools may participate in the federally funded school lunch program operated
in the state. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-8-7 et seq.
Rhode Island loans textbooks free of charge to all pupils of elementary
and secondary schools including private schools. This provision withstood
a constitutional challenge under both the Rhode Island and United States
constitutions in Bowerman v. O'Connor, 247 A.2d 82 (1968).
Miscellaneous: Whenever a K-9 pupil fails to report to school
and no indication has been received by the private school that the pupil's
parent/guardian is aware of the pupil's absence, the school must make a
reasonable effort to notify the parents of the child's absence. School
personnel or volunteers organized for this purpose are immune from any
civil or criminal liability in connection with the notice to parents. R.I.
Gen. Laws § 16-19-10.
Private schools that provide multiple kindergarten sessions must make
every effort to give written notice to parents which session their child
has been placed 30 days before the start of the school year. R.I. Gen.
Laws § 16-2-28.2.
The Secretary of State submits to the Board of Regents for Elementary
and Secondary Education all amendments to charters or articles of incorporation
of existing corporations that add educational functions for the Board's
approval. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-40-3.
By statute, the Best and Brightest Scholarship Fund includes two parents
of public or private school students on the nine-member scholarship committee.
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-37-3.