Private School Regulation
Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Pennsylvania mandates
licensing for K-12 private academic schools, except schools owned
or operated by or under the authority of bona fide religious
institutions, schools that are owned by colleges or universities,
schools for the blind or deaf receiving Commonwealth appropriations,
or schools accredited by accrediting associations approved by
the State Board of Education. However, all exempted private schools
may voluntarily choose to be licensed. The licensing requirements,
enforced by the State Board of Private Academic Schools, govern
health and safety, teaching and administrative staff, courses
of study and instructional equipment, student attendance, records,
fees, transportation, advertising, conditions of the premises,
procedures for school closings, and financial responsibility.
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6705 et seq. 22 PA. Code §§ 51.4,
.36; 51.2, .6, .34, .121-125.
Pennsylvania's compulsory school attendance law requires K-12
schools that are owned or operated by or under the authority
of bona fide religious institutions to register with the Department
of Education by filing a notarized certification or affidavit
of the principal. The notarized document states that subjects
prescribed by the school code will be taught or offered in the
English language for the amount of time specified, the governing
religious body is a nonprofit organization, and that the school
is otherwise in compliance with the provisions of the Pennsylvania
School Code. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327(b).
Recordkeeping/Reports: Private schools have an obligation
to furnish district superintendents a list of the names and residences
of all resident children between 6 and 18 enrolled in the school,
to report the name and date of any pupil withdrawing, and the
name of any child absent 3 days or the equivalent without lawful
excuse. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1332. School administrators
failing to comply with the reporting requirements may be fined.
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1355.
Student health records maintained by private schools are confidential
and may be released only when necessary for the health of the
child or at the request of the parent/guardian. Records must
be transferred upon request when a student relocates to another
school. Private schools must not destroy a student's health record
for two years after the child's withdrawal, but may give them
to the child's parent/guardian if the child does not re-enroll
in another Pennsylvania school. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 14-1409.
Length of School Year/Day: Instructional time for children
attending day schools operated by a religious body must be a
minimum of 180 days or 450 hours at the kindergarten level or
900 hours at the elementary level, or 990 hours at the secondary
level. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. 13-1327(b), 22 Pa. Code 5.241. Licensed
K-12 private academic schools must be in session a minimum of
180 days of instruction or the equivalent clock hours requirement
with prior approval of the State Board of Private Academic Schools.
Upon Request, the Board may approve a school year containing
a minimum of 990 secondary or 900 elementary and 450 kindergarten
hours of instruction as the equivalent of 180 days, when a meritorious
educational program warrants. 22 Pa. Code § 51.61.
Teacher Certification: Only teachers holding a valid
Pennsylvania professional certificate issued under Chapter 49
(relating to certification of professional personnel), a private
academic teaching certificate or a private academic temporary
approval certificate may teach in a licensed private school.
The Commonwealth is not empowered to approve the faculty or staff
of the registered, nonlicensed, religious schools. 22 PA. Code § 51.34.,
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327(b).
Instruction in English: Instruction in the private schools
must be in English and from English texts unless a foreign language
is permitted by the Secretary of Education as a part of a foreign
language study or bilingual education program. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 15-1511.
Discrimination: Private schools are prohibited from
discriminating in enrollment based on race or color. 24 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 15-1521.
Curriculum: Attendance at an elementary day school operated
by a religious body satisfies the compulsory attendance statute
if courses are taught in: English, including spelling, reading,
and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United
States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including
regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention
of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and
art. Attendance at a secondary day school operated by a religious
body satisfies the compulsory attendance statute if courses are
offered in: English, including language, literature, speech and
composition; science, including biology and chemistry; geography;
social studies, including civics, economics, world history, history
of the United States and Pennsylvania; a foreign language; mathematics,
including general mathematics and statistics, algebra and geometry;
art; music; physical education; health and physiology; and safety
education, including regular and continuous instruction in the
dangers and prevention of fires. A principal's notarized affidavit
filed with the Department of Education stating these subjects
are offered in the English language, by a nonprofit school, and
in compliance with the law, is sufficient evidence of compliance
with this provision. Nothing in this provision empowers the Commonwealth
and its officers to approve the course content, faculty, staff
or disciplinary requirements of any nonpublic religious school
without its consent. Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327(b).
Private elementary schools are required to teach the following
subjects: English, including spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic;
geography; the history of the United States and of Pennsylvania;
science; civics, including loyalty to the State and National
Government; safety education, and the humane treatment of birds
and animals; health, including physical education and physiology;
music and art. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 15-1511.
Private high schools must provide during grades 7-12 four semesters
in the history and government of the United States and Pennsylvania
to develop an appreciation for the American republican representative
form of government, the benefits of the American way of life,
and the individual's duty to exercise the right to vote. 24 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 16-1605.
A child enrolled in a day or boarding school accredited by an
accrediting association approved by the State Board of Education
is considered to have met the compulsory attendance requirement.
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327(c).
K-12 nonpublic and private school students have a right to refuse
to dissect, vivisect, incubate, capture or otherwise harm or
destroy animals. School administrators have a duty to notify
parents and pupils of their rights 3 weeks prior to a scheduled
exercise. Students who choose to opt out of the exercise must
be offered an alternative education project. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 15-1523.
Special Education: Pennsylvania enrolls exceptional
children in approved private schools when there is no public
school special education program that meets the student's needs.
An exceptional child is defined as "blind or deaf, or has cerebral
palsy and/or neurological impairment and/or muscular dystrophy
and/or is mentally retarded and/or has a serious emotional disturbance
and/or has autism/pervasive developmental disorder." Costs are
shared between the local school district and the Department of
Education. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1376. When requested,
these schools must provide for administrative purposes, the names,
ages, and residences of all pupils enrolled, specifying the school
districts liable for part of the tuition and maintenance and
the per capita cost of and maintenance of pupils to the Department
of Education. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1377.
All Pennsylvania private and nonpublic schools may offer special
education programs. Such programs do not come under federal or
state special education due process procedures.
Health: As directed by the Secretary of Health, private
and parochial school administrators have a duty to ensure that
every student, prior to admission to school, is immunized against
diseases or parents have filed a request for exemption for religious
or medical reasons. Certificates of immunization or exemption
must be issued in accordance with regulations promulgated by
the Secretary of Health. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1303a.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly has determined that speech
and hearing correctional services are health services. The Secretary
of Education has a duty to furnish these services free to nonpublic
school students on the grounds of the school, provided that the
services are also afforded to public school students of the school
district wherein the private school is located. 24 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 9-971A. Similarly, the General Assembly has determined
diagnostic and evaluative psychological services and visual services
are health services that must be afforded to nonpublic school
students on the premises of the nonpublic school, provided that
the services are also afforded to public school students of the
school district wherein the private school is located. 24 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 9-973.1, 2.
The State Advisory Health Board regulates the prevention and
control of disease in private schools. 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 521.2.
Local county/city health officers are charged with notifying
public, parochial and other school teachers and administrators
of the need to exclude children who are suffering from, or residing
with persons suffering from communicable diseases and to make
sanitary inspections. 16 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2190; 53 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 37306.
Nonpublic schools may access educational materials on the nature
and effects of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and dangerous controlled
substances through the intermediate units. Nonpublic school employees
may also attend the in-service training programs made available
by the Department of Education on these topics and provided by
the intermediate units. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 15-1547.
The Pennsylvania legislature intended that nonpublic school
students benefit from drug and alcohol abuse programs piloted
by the state. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5311 et seq.
Nonpublic school employees acting in good faith in the scope
of their official duty are immune from civil liability for negligent
statements, acts or omissions made relating to student drug or
alcohol abuse. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8337.
Safety: Administrators of private schools have a duty
to provide instruction and training in the proper procedures
to exit school buildings in an emergency without confusion or
panic. Drills must be conducted at least once a month when the
schools are in session. All schools are required to provide some
regular instruction in the dangers of fire and the prevention
of fire waste during the school year. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 15-1518.
Private school administrators must require applicants for positions
with direct contact with children to produce with their applications
a criminal history report from the Pennsylvania State Police
and a clearance statement resulting from a background check for
employment conducted by the Department of Public Welfare within
the immediately preceding year. Persons not receiving a clearance
statement are ineligible for employment. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §6355.
Persons convicted within 5 years of certain crimes specified
by statute are ineligible for employment with some exceptions.
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. §1-111.
A school employee who has reasonable cause to suspect, on the
basis of professional or other training and experience, that
a student coming before the employee in the employee's professional
or official capacity is a victim of serious bodily injury or
sexual abuse or sexual exploitation by a school employee shall
make a report to law enforcement officials and the district attorney.
23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §6352.
School administrators may use the resources of the Office for
Safe Schools established by the Department of Education through
legislation designed to combat school violence. 24 Pa. Cons.
School administrators shall maintain updated records of all
incidents of violence, incidents involving possession of a weapon
and convictions or adjudications of delinquency for acts committed
on school property by students enrolled therein. A statistical
summary of these records shall be made accessible to the public
for examination by the public during regular business hours.
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. §1307A.
Upon adjudication, a delinquent child's building principal and
teacher is notified of specific circumstances for the limited
purposes of protecting school personnel and students from danger
from the child and of arranging appropriate counseling and education
for the child. Information provided to and maintained by the
principal is maintained separately from the official school record.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §6341.
It is a misdemeanor to carry a weapon, i.e. an instrument capable
of inflicting serious bodily injury, e.g. a knife, cutting instrument,
cutting tool, nunchuck stick, firearm, shotgun, or rifle, on
the grounds or in transport to a licensed elementary or secondary
private school or parochial school. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 912.
An attempt to intentionally cause bodily injury to a teaching
staff member, school board member, employee or student of any
licensed elementary or secondary private school or parochial
school while the person is acting within the scope of his/her
employment is an aggravated assault and a felony of the second
degree. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2702.
The sale of a controlled substance to a minor within 1000 feet
of a private or parochial school brings an additional minimum
sentence of at least two years confinement. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6314.
Fire extinguishers containing carbon tetrachloride are illegal
when used in private or parochial school buildings or buses used
to transport school children. School administrators permitting
their use are guilty of a summary offense. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7304.
Industrial quality eye protective devices are required for teachers,
students, and visitors at private schools when engaged in dangerous
activities, e.g. the use of hot liquids, solids or gases; milling,
sawing, turning, or grinding of solid materials; and repairing
or servicing vehicles. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5301.
Permits for new municipal waste landfills, commercial residual
waste treatment facilities or resource recovery facilities will
not be issued for property located within 300 yards of a building
owned by a parochial school and used for instructional purposes.
53 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4000.511.
Transportation: Local school boards that provide transportation
for public school students to school must provide identical transportation
services for nonpublic school students enrolled in nonprofit
schools within the district boundaries or outside the district
boundaries at a distance not exceeding ten miles by the nearest
public highway. Transportation must be provided when the nonpublic
school is in session as determined by the directors of the nonpublic
school. Local school districts transporting nonpublic students
receive per capita subsidy from the Commonwealth. 24 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 13-1361; 21-2114; 25-2509.3.
School vehicles owned by or under contract with a parochial
or private school that are used for the transportation of students
must conform with Department of Transportation standards governing
design, construction, equipment and operation. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4551.
School bus drivers must complete basic and refresher training
courses with the costs borne by the school district or private
or parochial school for which the drivers operate. 75 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 1509(C).
Private schools must ensure that every student is familiar with
school bus emergency procedures and equipment and safe loading
and unloading operations. The school must conduct a minimum of
two emergency evacuation drills each year. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4552.
Motor vehicles bearing school bus or school vehicle registration
plates must be used exclusively for the transportation of children
and their chaperons to the private, parochial, Sunday school
or related activity. The school adopts regulations governing
the number of chaperons necessary. When the school bus is being
used for other purposes, the words "school bus" on the front
and rear should be concealed and the red and amber visual signals
not operated. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1343.
Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The
Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits any appropriation of money
raised for the public schools to a sectarian school. Pennsylvania
Const. Art. 3, Sec. 15. In addition, appropriations to educational
institutions not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth,
other than teacher training schools, are prohibited unless passed
by two-thirds of all the members elected to each House. Pennsylvania
Const. Art. 3, Sec. 30.
Under Pennsylvania law, the Secretary of Education has a duty
to loan textbooks and instructional materials at no cost to children
enrolled in K-12 nonpublic schools. The Secretary is not required
to spend an amount in excess of $20 for textbooks and $10 for
instructional materials per student. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9-973.
Legislation authorizes the Department of Education, through
the intermediate units, to purchase technology items including
computer hardware, software, connectivity and related materials
to loan to Pennsylvania nonpublic students enrolled in grades
K-12. Professional development opportunities for teachers can
also be provided through the intermediate units to ensure teachers
can use the technology within the curriculum. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1505-A.
Private school students are entitled to auxiliary services through
the intermediate unit on an equal basis with public school students
of the school district within which the nonpublic school is located.
Auxiliary services include but are not limited to: guidance counseling
and testing services, psychological services, visual services,
services for exceptional children, remedial services, speech
and hearing services, and services for the improvement of the
educationally disadvantaged. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9-972.1.
Miscellaneous: Private schools must display the United
States flag, not less than three feet in length, in all school
buildings during each day that schools are in session. In addition,
the schools must provide instruction to develop allegiance to
the flag and to promote a clear understanding of the American
way of life. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7-771.
Private schools may join the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic
Association for athletic competition. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5-511(b.1).
Private and parochial school organizations that promote extracurricular
activities may sponsor small games of chance for the purpose
of raising funds for public interest purposes. The organizations
must be recognized by the governing body of the private or parochial
school. The games are strictly regulated by the state. 10 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 312 et seq.
Private school guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists or
clerical workers working for a guidance counselor, will not be
compelled to disclose information during any legal proceeding
or investigation that was obtained from a student without the
student's consent if over 18 or without the parent's consent
if the student is under 18. However, no such person shall be
excused or prevented from complying with the Child Protective
Services Law. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5945.
Parochial, private and nonpublic schools have the option of
providing armed forces recruiters a list of prospective graduating
seniors for recruitment purposes. Costs incurred by a nonpublic
school are reimbursed by the armed forces recruiters. 51 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 20221 et seq.
No street may be laid out and opened through any grounds occupied
by a building used as a parochial school or educational institution
unless the owner consents. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 57006.
No property used for a parochial school or educational institution
can be taken by a township for the purpose of extending the system
of water distribution or to erect public buildings. 53 Pa. Cons.
Stat. §§ 57703; 57803.
Home Education Programs: A home education program is
not considered a nonpublic school in Pennsylvania. The parent
or guardian or such person having legal custody of the child
or children, who has a high school diploma or its equivalent,
is designated as the "supervisor" and is responsible for the
provision of instruction. A notarized affidavit must be filed
at the commencement of the home education program and each August
1 thereafter with the superintendent of the school district of
residence. The affidavit must contain the name of the supervisor;
the name and age of each child participating in the home education
program; the address and telephone number of the home education
site; a statement that such subjects as are required by law are
offered in the English language, including an outline of proposed
education objectives by subject area, evidence that each child
has been immunized and received the health and medical services
required for his or her age or grade, and a certification that
the supervisor and all adults living in the home and persons
having legal custody of the child or children have not been convicted
of certain criminal offenses related to children. 24Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 13-1327.1
The supervisor of the home education program shall maintain
a portfolio of records and materials, including a log of time
spent, title of reading materials and samples of writings, worksheets,
workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the child
and results of standardized tests in grades 3, 5, and 8 with
an evaluation of the student's education progress by a licensed
clinical or school psychologist or a certified teacher with two
years experience or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator
with two years experience in the last 10 and provide it to the
superintendent annually by June 30 or as requested in writing.
The school district of residence shall, at the request of the
supervisor, lend to the home education program copies of the
school district's planned courses, textbooks, and other curricular
materials appropriate to the student's age and grade level. 24
PA. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327.1
A home education program for a child who has been identified
under the Education of the Handicapped Act (now IDEA) as needing
special education services (not gifted) must be a program which
addresses the child's specific needs and written approval of
the program be received from a certified special education teacher
or licensed clinical or certified school psychologist and submitted
by the supervisor with the affidavit prior to beginning the home
education program and annually thereafter.