Private School Regulation

New Mexico

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: The State Board of Education has a duty to assess and evaluate private schools that desire state accreditation and to prescribe courses of instruction, graduation requirements and standards for private schools seeking state accreditation. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-2-2 F, J.

The State Board of Education's authority to approve courses of instruction in private schools does not extend to supervision, control or management over private schools. Santa Fe Community School v. State Bd. of Education, 518 P.2d 272 (1974)

Recordkeeping/Reports: The State Board of Education is under a statutory duty to require periodic attendance reports from private schools on forms prescribed. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-2-2L.

The governing authority of a private school is responsible to initiate the enforcement of the compulsory school attendance law for its enrolled students. The private school must give written notice of noncompliance by certified mail or personal service on the parent/guardian. If violations continue after written notice, the student must be reported to the probation services office of the judicial district where the student resides for an investigation. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-12-7.

The school superintendent of a private and parochial school must prepare a record showing the immunization status of every child enrolled in his/her school. The record must be current and available to the public health authorities. The superintendent must report the name of any parent/guardian neglecting to immunize his child to the director of the Health Services Division, Health and Environment Department. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-5-4.

Length of School Year/Day: Persons subject to the Compulsory School Attendance Law must attend school for at least the length of time of the school year that is established in the school district in which the person is a resident. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-12-2.

Curriculum: The State Board of Education regulates minimum standards for approved driver-education and motorcycle driver-education courses. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-13-12.

Special Education: Local school boards may publicly place exceptional children in private, nonsectarian, nonprofit educational training centers. Payment for education and services are made by the local board of education from funds available. Agreements between local school boards and private schools must provide for diagnoses and educational programs that meet state standards. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-13-8.

Health: No person with a communicable disease in a transmissible state dangerous to the health of students may be employed in a private school. Private school employees, including bus drivers, must present upon employment a certificate from a licensed physician stating that the person is free from such communicable diseases. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-10-10.

Children attending private or parochial schools are required to be immunized according to rules and regulations promulgated by the Health Services Division, Health and Environment Department, unless exempt due to medical contraindications or religious beliefs. N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 24-5-1; 24-5-3.

The Health Services Division, Health and Environment Department, maintains a program to educate the general public, including private school students, on the nature and inheritance of sickle cell anemia. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-3-1.

Safety: Private schools are required to conduct at least one fire drill each week during the first four weeks of the school year and at least once each month thereafter for the remainder of the school year. If a paid fire department is maintained in the area, a member of the department must be requested to be in attendance to give instruction and constructive criticism. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-13-14.

The state fire marshall is required by statute to prescribe rules, regulations and programs, for teaching the proper methods of fire prevention and control to all school children. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 59A-52-7.

It is a misdemeanor to willfully interfere with the educational process of any private school by an act that would disrupt the functioning of the school. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-20-13.

Home Schooling: New Mexico defines a home school as "the operation by a parent, legal guardian or other person having custody of a school-age person who instructs a home study program that provides a basic academic educational program, including, but not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science". A home school operator must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-1-2 V.

Persons operating or intending to operate a home school must notify the superintendent of schools of the school district in which the child is a resident within 30 days of beginning home schooling. Records of student attendance and disease immunization must be maintained. A calendar indicating instruction at least the length of the school year of the local district must be provided to the local public school superintendent. N.M. Stat. Ann. ? 22-12-2. Students must be tested according to statewide and local school district testing programs to assess achievement. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-1-2.1

Students who are in a registered home school may also attend public schools if the local school district wishes to provide such an option. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-2-8.3. While simultaneously participating as a home school student and a public school student, students may receive school credit for course work successfully completed through public school instruction, but not for instruction provided at home.

Students may also combine school instruction with home instruction in "Family Schools". Family Schools are programs that are approved by both the local and state boards of education. Family School students are not registered home school students. They are qualified public school students enrolled in alternative education program and may receive credit for instruction provided both at school and at home. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-5-5.6. Requests for Family Schools are submitted to the State Board of Education at the option of the local school district.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The New Mexico Constitution prohibits the appropriation of any state educational funds to support any sectarian, denominational or private school. New Mexico Const. Art. XII, § 3. In addition, the Constitution prohibits appropriations for educational purposes not under the absolute control of the state.

All property used for educational purposes is exempt from state taxation under the New Mexico Constitution. New Mexico Const. Art. VIII § 3.

Students enrolled in an approved private school, grades 1-12, are entitled to the free use of instructional material. Under the state's Instructional Material Law, private schools may select materials for the students' use from the multiple list adopted by the state board. N.M. Stat. Ann. §§22-15-1 through 22-15-14.

Miscellaneous: A special use permit as a prerequisite to the operation of a parochial school is not an unreasonable restriction upon a church's free exercise of religion. City of Las Cruces v. Huerta, 692 P.2d 1331 (Ct. App. 1984).

Canvassing prospective students to sell a scholarship or collect tuition in advance of registration for a private school is illegal without first obtaining a permit from the state board. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-13-16.

The governing board of a private school may request family services on behalf of a family if a child is absent from school without an excuse for more than 10 days during a semester and the school submits an affidavit documenting the attempts to resolve the situation. Any person referring a family for family services is immune from civil or criminal liability unless the person acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 32A-3A-3C.

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.