Private School Regulation

South Dakota

South Dakota provides extensive guidelines for curriculum offered in nonpublic schools.

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: The South Dakota Board of Education is authorized to establish standards for the classification and accreditation of all schools. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-1-12(1). The Secretary is responsible for the classification and accreditation under the rules established by the Board. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-3-47.

Nonaccredited nonpublic schools, including church sponsored programs, operating as "alternative education programs" must provide instruction in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics for an equivalent period of time as in the public schools. Children in attendance must annually take a nationally standardized achievement test (basic skills) that is currently used in the public school district where the child is instructed. Instructors do not have to be certified but cannot teach more than 22 students. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.

See also Home Schooling

Recordkeeping/Reports: A person enrolling a student in a nonpublic school must submit a certified copy of a birth certificate or an affidavit issued by the Department of Health within 30 days of enrollment. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.1. The superintendent of any nonpublic school must regularly report to the state's attorney the name and address of any child who has not presented a certified copy of a birth certificate. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.3.

Length of School Year/Day: Under the compulsory attendance statute, students attending nonpublic schools must attend for the entire term during which the public school in the district is in session. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-1. A school day is at least 5 1/2 hours exclusive of intermissions. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-26-1. A school term must consist of 175 days. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-26-2. Actual school terms are established by the local school boards, but may not be less than 962 1/2 hours. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-26-2.1.

Instruction in English: Instruction in any school must promote a mastery of the English language in oral and written communications. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-33-11.

Discrimination: South Dakota prohibits discrimination in private educational institutions based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability or national origin. Segregation by sex in athletic activities does not constitute discrimination if the opportunity to participate in athletic activities offered by the institution is substantially equal for both sexes. Bona fide religious institutions that have a qualification based on religion are exempt if the qualification is related to a bona fide religious purpose. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 20-13-1; 20-13-22.

Teacher Certification: The South Dakota Board of Education is authorized to establish standards for certified personnel in all schools. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-1-12.1. No person may teach in any nonpublic school the courses prescribed to be taught in the public schools unless the person holds a certificate entitling him to teach the course in the public schools. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-42-2. By statute, one member of the 12-member South Dakota Advisory Council on Certification must be an active nonpublic school classroom teacher. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-42-23.

Elementary, secondary and vocational teachers may attend undergraduate and graduate courses at state institutions for 50% of the tuition costs. Certain requirements apply including: 1) courses must be a condition of employment or necessary to maintain a certificate to teach; 2) space must be available; 3) the teacher must be a resident of the state and employed by an accredited school as a teacher; and 4) the teacher must maintain an average academic grade of 3.0. The maximum credit hours for reduced tuition is six per year. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 13-55-24 to 13-55-28.

Instructors in nonaccredited nonpublic schools do not have to be certified but cannot teach more than 22 students. Instructors do not have to be certified but cannot teach more than 22 students. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.

Curriculum: All schools must provide regular courses in the Constitution of the United States and the state of South Dakota beginning not later than the eighth grade and continuing through high school as determined by the South Dakota Board of Education. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-33-4.

Moral and character instruction must be given in all nonpublic elementary and secondary schools that is intended to impress upon the minds of students the importance of citizenship, patriotism, honesty, self discipline, self respect, sexual abstinence, respect for the contributions of minority and ethnic groups to the heritage of South Dakota, regard for the elderly, and respect for authority. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-33-6.1.

Health: The governing body of a nonpublic school is under a duty to provide sanitary facilities and a supply of water suitable for drinking; to maintain sanitary conditions; and to install electrical services, adequate lighting and a telephone unless operating for less than one school term. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-24-16.

Any pupil entering school must present prior to admission certification from a licensed physician that the child has 1) has been tested for tuberculosis and is free from a contagious form of tuberculosis; and 2) has received or is in the process of receiving adequate immunization against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, rubeola, rubella, mumps and tetanus, according to recommendations provided by the Department of Health. In the alternative, students may present 1) certification by a licensed physician stating that a test or immunization would endanger the child's life or health; 2) a written statement by a parent/guardian that the child is an adherent to a religious doctrine opposed to the test or immunization; or 3) a written statement by a parent/guardian requesting that the local health department give the test and immunization because the parent/guardian lacks the means to pay for the test or immunization. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-28-7.1.

Nonpublic school employees, who are in regular contact with, pupils must submit a certification of health within 10 days after being employed. The certification must include a statement that there is no evidence of a physical condition that would endanger the health, safety or welfare of the pupils, including tuberculosis. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-43-3.

Safety: Nonpublic schools must be constructed, equipped, operated and maintained in a safe condition with respect to type of construction and materials used, fireproofing, the number and types of ways of egress, aisles and passageways, stairs and fire escapes, wall openings, exits and exit signs, doors and doorways, shaft ways and other vertical openings, fire alarm systems, electrical equipment, flammable and explosive materials, heating systems and fuel storage, numbers of occupants, ventilation, and all other emergency protection. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-25-1. The Division of Commercial Inspection and Regulations may inspect all school buildings operated as a part of a school. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-25-3.

Any person who has contact with children while serving at a private school and suspects child abuse or neglect must notify the school principal, Superintendent, or designee. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 26-8A-7. The school principal must report the information orally and immediately to the state's attorney of the county, the Department of Social Services, or to law enforcement officers. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 26-8A-8.

Criminal conduct involving controlled substances and marijuana that occur within 1,000 feet of a private elementary or secondary school is a felony punishable by a minimum sentence of five years. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 22-42-19.

Nonpublic or parochial schools may develop a fingerprinting program for students. The program must ensure that: 1) participation is voluntary; 2) the program is executed with parental consent; 3) the program is operated under the supervision of local law enforcement agencies; 4) all completed fingerprint forms are given to the parents and 5) no school maintains a copy of the completed fingerprint forms. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 26-15-1; 26-15-2.

Transportation: School buses used for transportation of school children owned by a nonpublic school or operated under contract with a nonpublic school must be inspected annually by the Division of Highway Patrol. A certificate will be issued if the bus meets state standards and must be displayed in the vehicle above the windshield. Failure to comply with this provision is a petty offense. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-29-6.

Home Schooling: Parents or guardians desiring to educate their child at home must enroll their child in an alternative instruction program. Applications to the school district of residence must be filed yearly for all programs active and approved in the previous year. Before an alternative instruction program can commence, an application must be presented to the district administrative office and forwarded to the respective board of education for approval or disapproval. S.D. Codified Laws Ann § 13-27-3.

Instructors are not required to be certified. The person providing the instruction must maintain records of student attendance and evidence showing academic progress. Alternative instruction programs are required to operate for a minimum of 175 days each school year. S.D. Codified Laws Ann § 13-27-3.

Instruction must be directed toward a mastery of the English language. Math and reading/language arts are required curricular areas. The amount of time for each curricular area must be equivalent to the instructional time in the public schools. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.

When requested, textbooks are required to be loaned to alternative instruction programs by the public school district where the program is located. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3

Alternative education students in grades 2, 4, 8, and 11 must participate in a standardized testing program. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.

The Secretary of the Department of Education and Cultural Affairs may inspect the attendance records and evidence showing academic progress for an alternative education program if he has probable cause to believe the program is not in compliance. Fourteen days written notice must be given. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-27-3.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Property owned by any educational institution as an accredited or approved school is exempt from taxation. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 10-4-13.

Religious educational institutions and nonprofit private educational institutions are exempt from retail sales and service taxes. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 10-45-14.

The Secretary of Education and Cultural Affairs is authorized to enter into contracts with United States agencies to administer programs for the distribution of surplus commodities to schools and other recipients. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-14-2.

Miscellaneous: Nonpublic schools are subject to the same legal age provisions applicable to public schools. The minimum age for enrollment in first grade is six years old by September 1st. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 13-28-2; 13-28-4.

Employment at an elementary or secondary school is exempt from coverage under South Dakota's unemployment compensation provisions. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 61-1-10.4(a)(3).

South Dakota includes private school students in the school district's average daily membership to calculate the apportionment among school districts of the school fund income. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 13-13-1; 13-13-2.

Approved and accredited nonpublic schools may delegate, on a year to year basis, the control of interscholastic activities to any voluntary and nonprofit association, provided the membership is open to all approved and accredited high schools and that the constitution, bylaws, and rules of the association are subject to the ratification by the member schools. S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 13-36-4. Parochial school's use of public school facilities does not constitute "aid to sectarian school." South Dakota High School Interscholastic Activities Assn. v. St. Mary's Inter-Parochial High School of Salem, 247 NW 2d 481 (1976).

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.