Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: An independent school is defined by statute as "a school other than a public school, which provides a program of elementary or secondary education, or both." Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 11(8). Independent schools may apply for approval by the State Board of Education or file an enrollment notice as a recognized independent school. Tutorial programs, providing education to a pupil who is placed in a short term program for evaluation and/or treatment, may also apply for approval by the State Board of Education. V.S.A. 16 § 828. Distance learning schools located in Vermont may apply for approval but are not eligible to receive tuition from public funds. V.S.A. 16, § 166 (b)(6).

The State Board of Education approves independent schools if the school provides a minimum course of study and substantially complies with the Board's rules for approved independent schools. The Board's rules require at a minimum: 1) adequate resources to meet the school's objectives, including financial capacity; 2) faculty qualified by training and experience in the areas assigned; 3) physical facilities and special services in accordance with state and federal law. Approval may be granted without state board evaluation if the school is accredited by a private, state or regional agency recognized by the State Board. Approval may be revoked or suspended, after opportunity for a hearing, for failure to comply with state requirements. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(b).

The State Board of Education is charged with adopting rules for approved independent schools relating to instruction, faculty, curriculum, libraries, educational materials and physical facilities, which are necessary to provide an acceptable educational opportunity for pupils in those schools. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 164(14).

A recognized independent school may operate in Vermont upon filing an enrollment notice with the State Commissioner of Education. The notice must include: 1) a statement that the school will be in session an amount of time substantially equivalent to public schools; 2) a detailed description of the minimum course of study for each grade level and how the annual assessment will be performed; and 3) assurances that the school maintains attendance records, maintains annual assessments of each pupil's progress that is reported to parents/guardians, provides the minimum course of study as provided by § 906 (See Curriculum), employs teachers and materials sufficient to carry out the educational program, and meets applicable state and federal laws concerning physical facilities and health and safety matters. An enrollment notice must be renewed annually unless the school has been recognized or accredited by a state approved organization for the purpose of recognizing and accrediting purposes. If a school is unable to comply with any requirement due to a deep religious conviction shared by an organized group, the commissioner may waive the requirement if the educational purposes are being met. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(c).

If the Commissioner has information that creates significant doubt that the school is able to meet the recognition requirements, or once in operation, is meeting the requirements, he may call a hearing for a determination on the matter. If a school fails to establish that it can meet or has met the requirements, the commissioner will require specific action to come into compliance or the students must attend another school, or the school may be closed for the remainder of the year. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(c).

Independent schools that offer kindergarten, but no other graded education, may be approved by the state if the school substantially complies with the board's rules for approved independent kindergartens. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(b)(1).

Religious schools may apply to be either approved or recognized independent schools and follow the State Board of Education rules and the Vermont Statute for Independent Schools but they are not eligible to receive tuition from public funds.

The State Board of Education may approve tutorial programs if the program substantially complies with the Board’s rules for approved tutorial programs. The Board’s rules require at a minimum: 1) adequate resources to meet the school’s objectives, including financial capacity; 2) faculty qualified by training and experience in the areas assigned; 3) physical facilities and special services in accordance with state and federal law; and 4) policies for coordination with each student’s responsible school district.

Distance Learning Schools shall meet the procedures and standards set forth for approved independent schools, which because of the schools’ structure can be applied, and additional rules adopted by the State Board of Education. The additional rules address tuition, admission policies, and communications with customers.

Recordkeeping/Reports: An approved independent school must provide parents/guardians a statement of its status under Vermont's approval requirements and a copy of Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §166 prior to accepting any tuition payments. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(b)(3).

A recognized independent school must provide parents/guardians a copy of its currently filed statement of objectives and a copy of Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §166 upon enrollment or September 1, whichever comes later. Failure to do so may create a permissible inference of false advertising.

Recognized independent schools and approved independent schools must provide the names and addresses of enrolled pupils to the Commissioner on October 1 of each year. The school must also notify the commissioner of the names and addresses of any pupils withdrawing from the school within seven days of their withdrawal. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(b)(4), (c)(6).

See fire drill records under Safety.

Length of School Year/Day: Recognized independent schools must be in session an amount of time substantially equivalent to that required for public schools. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § (c)(1)(A).

School year is defined under Vermont's general provisions as beginning July 1 and ending the next June 30. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 11(12).

Curriculum: Approved and recognized independent schools must provide learning experiences in the minimum course of study, i.e. learning experiences adapted to a pupil's age and ability in the fields of: 1) basic communication skills, including reading, writing, and the use of numbers; 2) citizenship, history, . gove .nt in Verm . . the United States; 3) physical education and comprehensive health education including the effects of tobacco, alcoholic drinks, and drugs on the human system and on society; 4) English, American and other literature; 5) the natural sciences; and, 6) the fine arts. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 906.

It is the Commissioner of Education's duty to distribute, at his discretion and upon request, forms and materials relating to the Vermont state basic competency program for elementary and secondary pupils to approved independent schools. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 212((12).

Subject to the approval of the commissioner, local superintendents of schools must arrange for the establishment of a driver education and training course for approved independent schools located within his/her supervisory jurisdiction at their request. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 1046.

Special Education: The Commissioner of Education establishes minimum standards of services for students receiving special education in independent schools; maximum rates to be paid by the department and school districts for tuition, room, and board, based on the level of services; and may advise independent schools as to the need for certain special education services in Vermont. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 2973.

Health: No person may enroll as a student in a Vermont school unless the appropriate person has received a record of certificate of immunization issued by a licensed physician or health clinic that the person has received immunizations appropriate to age as specified by the Vermont Department of Health. Exemptions to this requirement are allowed if the immunizations are in process, would be detrimental to the person's health or not appropriate, or contrary to the person's or parent/guardian's religious beliefs. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 1121, 1122.

Safety: Independent schools must drill the pupils once each month during the school year so that they may be able to leave the school building in the shortest possible time or without panic or confusion. A record of the date, time and time consumed in vacating the building shall be kept in the official school register and be open at all times for inspection by the Department of Labor and Industry or the Department of Education. A principal who willfully neglects to comply will be fined not more than $20.00.

Independent schools shall request a finger-print supported criminal record check on the person(s) recommended for any full-time, part-time, or temporary employment. The request is conducted through the Vermont Crime Information Center (VCIC). A notice of any criminal record is reported by VCIC to the independent school; except for a record relating to any crimes of a sexual nature involving children. Such a record is sent to the Commissioner of Education who shall notify the headmaster in writing, with a copy to the person about whom the request was made. Any information sent to a person by a headmaster or the Commission of Education shall be accompanied by a written notice of the person’s rights enumerated under the statute. Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 16, § 251-260.

The board of trustees of an independent school shall adopt harassment policies and establish procedures for dealing with harassment. Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 16 § 166 (e)

Independent schools shall adopt a gun-free school policy for any portion of the school day during which the students participate in LEA programs or activities. Nothing prohibits an independent school from adopting a gun-free school policy for the entire school program. Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 16 § 1166.

Persons knowingly and unlawfully delivering or selling a regulated drug on a school bus or in real property comprising a private elementary, secondary, or vocational school will, in addition to any other penalty, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than ten years. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4237.

Home Schooling: Home schooling is an education program offered through home study that provides a minimum course of study and is offer to no more than the children residing in that home and two or fewer children not residing in that home from one family. Vt. Stat. Ann, tit. 16, § 11 (21)

Parents wishing to home school their child must file a written notice with the Commissioner each year. The notice must contain the name and age of the child, contact information for parent and instructor, assessment of the previous year if the child was home schooled in the previous year, evidence that the child is or is not handicapped, a description of the content in each area, the name of the resident school district, and the signature of the parents. Vt. Stat. Ann, tit. 16, § 166b

An annual assessment is required. Several options are open to parents, including assessment by a Vermont certified teacher or a teacher from an approved Vermont private school, a standardized achievement test, or a report by the instructor accompanied by a portfolio of the child’s work.

Public schools may allow home schools to use the resources of the public school. A child eligible for special education services does not lose the right to services if home schooling is chosen. Acceptance of home school credit is at the discretion of the receiving school or college. No public high school diploma is issued for a home schooled child.

The minimum course includes basic communication skills (reading, writing, and use of numbers), citizenship, history, government, physical education, comprehensive health education, English and American literature, natural sciences, and fine arts. Vt. Stat. Ann, tit. 16, §§ 131, 166b, 906.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: State general aid may be used by a town school district or an incorporated school district for tuition to approved independent schools. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 3445.

The electorate of a school district that does not maintain an elementary school may grant authority to the school board to pay tuition for elementary pupils at approved independent nonresidential elementary schools upon request of the parent/guardian, if in the board's judgment, the pupil's educational interests can be better served there than at another public school district. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 821

The electorate of a school district that does not maintain an approved high school may provide for the high school education of its pupils by paying tuition to an approved public or independent high school selected by the parents or guardians of the pupil, within or without the state. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 822. The Vermont Supreme Court has held that a reimbursement of tuition to a sectarian high school under this provision is not prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the First Amemdment to the United States Constitution. Campbell v. Manchester Bd. of School Directors, 641 A.2d 352 (Vt. 1994).

School Districts will pay high school tuition charged its resident pupils who attend an independent school in Vermont that functions as an approved area technical center or an independent school meeting public school standards. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 824.

School Districts that do not maintain an approved public high school may designate an approved independent school as the public school of the district and pay the tuition charges to the independent school. If a parent/guardian is dissatisfied with the instruction, cannot obtain a course or instruction desired, or whose child can be better accommodated in an approved high school nearer to his home, he may request the school board to pay tuition to another approved high school. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 827.

Approved independent schools that are religious school may not be designated by school districts and tuition charges cannot be paid to the religious school.

Persons aggrieved by a school board's decision relating to tuition payments may appeal to the state board and its decision shall be final. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 828.

An independent school serving publicly placed students must notify the sending school board and the Commissioner of any proposed tuition increases on or before February 1 in any year. The increase will not become effective without the notice and not until the following school year. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 826.

The State Treasurer may issue bonds to assist independent schools meeting public school standards which serve as public high schools, receive their principal support from public funds, and are supervised by a board of trustees, two-thirds of the membership being appointed by the selectmen of a town or by the city council or both. Independent schools aggrieved by an allocation or award may appeal to the county superior court. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 3447, 3450. These independent schools may also apply to the State Board for construction aid for additions, alterations, and acquisition of facilities. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 3448.

Independent schools may participate in Vermont's school lunch program operating under federal programs. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 172. 1946-48 Op. Atty. Gen. 92.

Miscellaneous: Quasi-public or private elementary or secondary schools that directly or indirectly receive support from public funds are considered municipal employers under the Vermont Municipal Labor Relations Act. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1735.

Superintendents, principals, and teachers must subscribe to an oath prior to discharging their duties. The oath affirms their support for the constitutions and the laws of the United States and Vermont. Foreign citizens serving as superintendents, principals or teachers are not required to take the oath. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 12.

Vermont has a council of independent schools to advise the commissioner on policies and procedures with respect to independent schools. The commissioner appoints the 11-member board. Nine members come from within the independent schools' community and two members from the community at large. At least three members must be representatives of recognized independent schools. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(d).

The State Librarian will deliver a published copy of the state papers of Vermont to the library of a private high school, upon request. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 117.

Independent schools must annually conduct exercises in commemoration of the birth, life, and services of Abraham Lincoln on the last school day before February 12. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 907.

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.