Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: The Washington State Board of Education will accredit private schools that voluntarily apply for accreditation and meet established standards and procedures so long as no secret societies are knowingly allowed to exist among its students. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.305.130(6).

Attendance at a private school complies with Washington's compulsory school attendance statute if the school is approved. Washington approves private schools based on their compliance with minimum requirements pertaining to (1) length of school year/day; (2) teacher certification; (3) safeguarding of permanent records; (4) compliance with reasonable health and fire safety requirements; (5) curriculum; and (6) an up-to-date policy statement regarding the administration and operation of the school. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.305.130(6); 28A.195.010; 28A.225.010(1)(a).

Recordkeeping/Reports: Principals of private schools or superintendents of private school districts must file each year with the Superintendent of Public Instruction a statement certifying that minimum requirements are being met. (See above factors on approval.) If the private school notes any deviation from the minimum requirements, the State Superintendent will notify the school of the deviations which must be corrected. In case of major deviations, the school may request provisional status for one year to meet the requirements. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010; WAC 180-90-139.

Private schools shall report the school's attendance to the educational service district superintendent by June 30th of each year on forms provided. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.060.

Private schools shall take appropriate measures to safeguard all permanent records against loss or damage. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010(5).

Private K-12 schools must provide parents access to academic, attendance and disciplinary records, absent a court order to the contrary. Neither parent may veto the access requested by the other parent. Wash. Rev. Code § 26.09.225.

The county governing authority and the development disability board shall be eligible to obtain confidential information from private schools to provide requisite services for the developmentally disabled. Wash. Rev. Code § 71A.14.070.

See Health, Immunizations.

Private schools must maintain up-to-date policy statements regarding the administration and operation of the school. All decisions of policy, philosophy, school rules, and administration, unless specifically regulated under § 28A.195.010, are the responsibility of the administration of the particular private school. Wash. Rev. Code § 8A.195.010(8) et seq.

Length of School Year/Day: The minimum school year consists of no less than one hundred eighty school days or the equivalent in annual minimum program hour offerings, i.e. grade kindergarten—450 hours; Grades 1 through 12—1000 hours. The state requirements relating to assigned percentages of total program hour offerings prescribed for public schools do not apply to private schools and private sectarian schools. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010(1), (2).

Discrimination: The Washington State Board of Education denies approval to any private school engaging in a policy of racial segregation or discrimination. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.040.

Teacher Certification: All classroom teachers must hold appropriate Washington state certification except teachers for religious courses or courses for which no counterpart exists in the public schools. In exceptional cases, people of unusual competence without certification may teach so long as a certified person exercises general supervision. Annual written statements must be submitted to the Superintendent of Public Instruction reporting and explaining such circumstances. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010(3).

Curriculum: Private school curriculum shall include instruction of the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading writing, spelling, and the development of appreciation of art and music, all in sufficient units for meeting state board of education graduation requirements. All selection of books, teaching material, curriculum (except as provided above) are the responsibility of the administration of the particular private school. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010(7)(8) et seq.

Private schools may voluntarily choose to have their students master Washington's essential academic learning requirements, take state assessments, and obtain certificates of mastery, but are not required to do so. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.195.010(6);28A.630.885.

Health: Attendance at private schools is conditioned upon proof of either (1) full immunization; (2) the initiation of compliance with a schedule of immunization; or (3) a certificate of exemption. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.210.080. A private school's chief administrator, or his designee, shall (1) retain each child's proof of immunization or certification of exemption while the child is enrolled; (2) retain records for three years of each child excluded from school for failure to comply with the immunization requirements; (3) file a written annual report on forms provided by the Department of Health on the immunization status of students enrolled; and (4) allow agents of the state and local health departments to access the records during business hours for the purpose of inspection and copying. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.210.110. Prior to the exclusion of a child, the private school must provide written notice to the parent/guardian concerning: (1) the immunization requirements; (2) prohibited attendance until compliance; (3) procedural due process rights as required by the state; and (4) immunization services available through the local health department and other public agencies. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.210.120.

Private K-12 schools may administer oral medication to students but are not required to do so. If a private school administers medication, the school must adopt policies, under the advice of a licensed physician or nurse, addressing: (1) the designated responsible employees; (2) parental requests and instructions; (3) in the case of medication for more than fifteen consecutive school days, a dentist's or physician's request and instructions; (4) identification of medicine; (5) safekeeping of medicines; and (6) maintaining records of the administration of medication. Parental and dentist/physician requests must be in writing and current. Employees administering medication must be trained by a professional and take precautions to determine that the medication appears to be in its original container and properly labeled. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.210.260.

Private school employees administering oral medication to a student in compliance with state requirements are not liable in any criminal action or civil action for damages. The administration of oral medication may be discontinued without liability provided that the school's chief administrator or his designee has given notice in advance of the date of discontinuance to the parent/guardian. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.210.270.

Private schools may provide for, but are not required to, the catheterization of students without liability provided they comply with requirements adopted by the state nursing care quality assurance commission, the school's own written policies, and state requirements. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.210.280, 290, 295; 41.56, 59.

State grants awarded to school districts under the Substance Abuse Awareness Program for drug and alcohol abuse prevention and intervention programs may be used to provide services for students enrolled in approved private schools. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.170.090(2).

By statute, the Liquor Control Board does not intend to issue a retail liquor license to a proposed licensee if it would adversely affect an approved private school located within 500 feet. If a license is issued, the board will inform the private school of the reasons for issuing the license. Wash. Rev. Code § 66.24.010(9).

Safety: The physical facilities of a private school must be adequate to meet the program offered by the school. Each school building must meet reasonable health and fire safety requirements. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010(6).

The Washington Board of Education is under a statutory duty to provide instruction to private K-12 students to exit schools in a sudden emergency in the shortest possible time without confusion or panic. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.305.130(11). It is a criminal act in Washington to threaten to bomb or otherwise injure any private school, or to communicate any information concerning such a threat knowing the information is false with an intent to cause alarm. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.61.160.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction, through a superintendent of schools of any school district or an office or board performing like functions, may appoint a school patrol from the student body of a private school to assist in school children crossing public highways. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.385.

Persons intentionally manufacturing, selling, delivering or possessing a controlled substance to a person in a school, school bus, within 1000 feet of a school bus stop, or within 1000 feet of the perimeter of the school grounds, may receive up to twice the usual fines and imprisonment. Wash. Rev. Code § 69.50.435.

Transportation: School buses operated by approved private schools are exempt from the payment of vehicle license fees. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.16.035.

On highways divided into separate roadways and highways with three or more marked traffic lanes, private school bus routes shall serve each side of the highway so that students do not have to cross the highway, unless there is a traffic control signal or an adult crossing guard within three hundred feet of the bus stop to assist students. W.A. Rev. Code § 28A.160.115.

School districts may authorize students attending approved private schools to ride a public school bus to and from school if it can be accomplished without altering the bus routes or stops, seats are available, and the board of directors charges reimbursement for the actual per seat cost. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.160.020.

Home Schooling: Each parent whose child is receiving home-based instruction shall have the duty to: 1) File annually a signed declaration of intent to home school his or her child, including whether a certified person will be supervising the instruction; 2)Ensure that test scores or annual academic progress assessments and immunization records are forwarded to any public or private school to which the student may later transfer; 3) Ensure that a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually to the child by a qualified individual or that an annual assessment of the child's academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education. If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.200.010.

All decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing, and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent except for matters specifically referred to in Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.200.010; 28A225.010. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.200.020. Furthermore, the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experimental in nature than instruction normally provided in a classroom setting. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.225.010.

Home-based instruction shall consist of planned and supervised instructional and related educational activities, including a curriculum and instruction in the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, and the development of an appreciation of art and music, provided for a number of hours equivalent to the total annual program hours per grade level established for approved private schools under Wash. Rev. Code § 28A. 195.010.

The instruction must be provided by the parent who is instructing only his or her own child and supervised by a certificated person; or provided by the parent who is instructing only his or her own child and who has earned either 45 college level quarter credit hours or its equivalent in semester hours or has completed a course in home-based instruction at a postsecondary institutions or vocational-technical institute; or provided by a parent who is deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district in which the child resides. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.225.010.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: School districts shall permit private school students to enroll part time in the local public schools to take courses or receive ancillary services offered by the public school and not available in the private school. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.150.350.

The Educational Service District Boards may give private schools access to the depository and distribution centers for films, tapes, charts, maps and other instructional materials so long as the schools pay the actual costs for services established by the board. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.310.180.

Local school district boards may jointly make purchases with private schools for supplies, equipment, and services, including, but not limited to, school bus maintenance services, so long as the private schools pay in advance or provide a surety bond for their proportionate share of the costs involved. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.320.080.

Private schools have the same rights as any other person to submit bids for the rental, lease, or sale of surplus real property owned by the local school districts. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.336.040; 28A.335.120. Surplus texts and other education aids are also available to private schools. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.335.180.

To qualify for exempt tax status for real or personal property, private schools must file an initial application on or before March 31 with the Washington State Department of Revenue. To requalify, applicants must file an annual renewal application on or before March 31. Schools must annually file an affidavit on prescribed forms certifying the exempt status of the property. When a school acquires real property qualified for the exemption or converts real property to exempt status, the school must file an initial application for the property within 60 days, or bear a late filing penalty. Computer software is specifically exempt from property taxation by statute. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 84.36.815, 84.36.600.

Miscellaneous: By statute, Washington recognizes the rights of private schools to teach their religious beliefs, to pray, to teach patriotism, require students to salute the flag, and to require prior written consent by the parent/guardian for the administration of psychological testing or group therapy. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.020.

Private schools may appeal the actions of the State superintendent of public instruction or the State board of education. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.030.

By statute, the Washington Board of Education has one member to represent the private schools elected by the members of the boards of directors of all private schools in the state that meet the minimum requirements of Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.305.010. The private school representative may not vote on matters affecting public schools. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.305.010, .020, .050, .060, .070.

By statute, the superintendent of public instruction is directed to appoint a private school advisory committee that is broadly representative of educators, legislators, and various private school groups in the state of Washington. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.050.

Washington's fourteen-member Athletic Health Care and Training Council includes one member who is a representative of a private school which conducts junior and senior high school athletic programs. The council provides standards and guidelines for the health and safety of participants in organized athletics conducted in the high schools and junior high schools. Wash. Rev. Code § 43.230.010.

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.