Private School Regulation

Montana

2d 794 (1986). Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Nonpublic schools may be accredited by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the same manner as public schools upon request. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-7-102.

Recordkeeping/Reports: Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school maintains records on pupil attendance and immunization and makes the records available to the county superintendent on request. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-109(1).

Length of School Year/Day: Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school provides 180 days of instruction or the equivalent. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-109(2).

Curriculum: Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school provides an organized course of study that includes instruction in the subjects required of public schools as a basic instructional program. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-109(4).

Discrimination: Montana prohibits discrimination by a private elementary or secondary school based on race, creed, religion, sex, marital status, color, age, physical disability or national origin or because of mental disability, unless based on reasonable grounds. Mont. Code Ann. § 49-2-101(6); 49-2-307.

Special Education: To the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities in private institutions must be educated with children who do not have disabilities. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-7-411.

Health: The governing authority of any school may not allow any person to attend unless the person has been immunized, qualifies for conditional attendance because he has begun the immunization process, or files an exemption. If a student transfers to another school, the sending school must forward the original immunization records to the new school. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-403. Students are exempt from immunization requirements if they file a notarized affidavit claiming a religious exemption or a written statement by a physician that immunization is unsafe on medical grounds. The statements must be maintained in the student's immunization records. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-405.

The Department of Health and Environmental Sciences is responsible for making sanitary inspections of schoolhouses. Mont. Code Ann. § 50-1-203.

Safety: Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school is housed in a building that complies with applicable local health and safety regulations. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-109(3).

Private school buildings used for housing or instructing students may not be built, enlarged, or remodeled until the plans have been approved by the Department of Commerce or a municipality or county with a building code. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-6-622.

Schools must conduct at least eight disaster drills each year. At least four of the drill must be fire exit drills. Drills must be held at different hours of the day or evening. A board of trustees shall identify local hazards that exist within the boundaries of its school district and design drills to address those hazards. The recall signal must be separate and distinct from any other signal. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 20-10401; 20-10402; 20-1-404.

The sale of dangerous drugs on or within 1,000 feet of a private elementary or secondary school is a criminal offense under Montana's criminal code. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-9-109.

Private schools may organize school safety patrols to direct pupils as to when and where to cross highways. The school safety patrol is comprised of students. Parent/guardians must give written consent for participation. No liability attaches to the student because of an injury sustained by a pupil. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-1-408.

Transportation: Nonpublic school students may ride a public school bus if there is seating capacity available and the child secures a permit from the local school district. The school district may charge the child his proportionate share of the cost of operating the school bus. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-10-123.

School children traveling to and from parochial schools may receive free transportation or reduced rates from common carriers. Mont. Code Ann. § 69-11-208(1)(o).

Special education students are eligible for transportation when enrolled under an approved tuition agreement in a private institution. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-7-441(4).

Home Schooling: To qualify students for exemption from compulsory enrollment requirements, a home school shall maintain records on pupil attendance and disease immunization and make these records available to the county superintendent of schools upon request; provide at least 180 days of pupil instruction; be housed in a building that complies with health and safety standards; provide an organized course of study that includes instruction in the subjects required of public schools for a basic instructional program; notify the county superintendent of schools of the county in which the home school is located, in each school year, of the student?s attendance at the home school. Mont. Code Ann. § 20-5-109.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The Montana Constitution prohibits public aid to schools controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination. This provision does not apply to federal sources of income for nonpublic education. Mont. Const., Art. X, § 6. In addition, the constitution prohibits appropriations for educational purposes to private associations or corporations not under control of the state. Mont. Const., Art. V, § 11.

The Montana Supreme Court has interpreted the state constitution to prohibit school boards from employing teachers to teach secular subjects in parochial schools. State ex rel. Chambers v. School District, 472 P.2d 1013 (1970).

The Montana Constitution permits the legislature to exempt property used exclusively for educational purposes from property taxes. Mont. Const., Art. 8, § 5(b).

Tuition for nonprofit private educational institutions is exempt from Montana sales tax and use tax. 1993 Mt. Ch. 544 § 31.

Miscellaneous: The Montana Supreme Court has dismissed a wrongful discharge complaint that alleged a religious school breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by firing a teacher without notice or a hearing because the tort claim would impermissibly interfere with the free exercise of religion. Miller v. Catholic Diocese of Great Falls, 728 P.



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.