Private School Regulation

Rhode Island

Private schools in Rhode Island must be approved by the school committee. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-29-8.

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Attendance at private schools satisfies Rhode Island's compulsory attendance law if the private school is approved by the school committee. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-29-8, 16-19-1. Rhode Island approves private schools that comply with the following requirements: 1) the period of attendance is substantially equal to that required in public schools; 2) registers of attendance are kept and returned to the school committee, superintendent of schools, truant officers, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; 3) instruction is provided in reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, the history of the United States and Rhode Island, and the principles of American government are taught in the English language substantially to the same extent as required in the public schools; 4) the teaching of the English language and other subjects is thorough and efficient, provided instruction may occur in any other language in addition to English; 5) instruction is provided in the principles of popular and representative government under the Rhode Island and United States constitutions; and 6) instruction in health and physical education similar to that required in public schools is provided. The commissioner will grant a hearing to private schools that are denied approval. On appeal, the decision of the Board of Regents is final. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-19-2, 16-22-2, 16-22-4, 16-60-4 (10).

Recordkeeping/Reports: Private school teachers must keep a register of the names of all students, their sex and age, names of parents or guardians, the time when each student enters and leaves the school, and their daily attendance. Private schools are obligated to prepare reports required by the school committee or Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-12-4.

Length of School Year/Day: The period of attendance for private schools must be substantially equal to that required in public schools. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.

Instruction in English: Approved private schools must provide instruction in the English language, provided instruction may occur in any other language in addition to English. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.

Curriculum: Approved private schools must provide curriculum in reading; writing; geography; arithmetic; the history of the United States and Rhode Island; the principles of American government in the English language substantially to the same extent as required in the public schools; thorough and efficient instruction in the English language and other subjects, provided instruction may occur in any other language in addition to English; and, instruction in health and physical education similar to that required in public schools. Approved private schools must also provide instruction in the principles of popular and representative government as enunciated in the Constitution of Rhode Island and the United States substantially equivalent to that required for public schools. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-19-2, 16-22-2, 16-22-4.

Health: Students entering private schools must furnish evidence of immunization as prescribed by regulation of the Director of Health and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, or a certificate from a licensed physician stating the student is not a fit subject for immunization for medical reasons or a certificate signed by the parent/guardian stating that immunization is contrary to their beliefs. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-38-2.

Safety: Private schools must comply with building code standards established by the state building code standards committee. By August 1 of each year, the local fire chief, local building inspector, the director of the State Department of Health and the director of the State Labor Department must determine and notify the private schools as to whether the schools conform to state law and regulation. Private school officials must ensure that schools are not opened until notification is received; neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-3, 3.1.

Private schools having more than 25 pupils must instruct and train the pupils by means of drills to leave school buildings in an emergency in the shortest possible time and without confusion or panic. Fifteen drills are required annually, at least 8 held during September, October, and November. At least 4 drills must be obstructed, i.e. at least 1 or more exits and stairways blocked; 2 of the obstructed drills must be held during September and October. Neglect by a private school to comply is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-4.

Private schools must provide students, teachers, and visitors, approved eye protective devices for specified vocational or industrial arts classes and chemical laboratory classes. Students and teachers are required to wear protective devices at all times while participating in the courses. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-15.

Retail licenses to sell alcoholic beverages are restricted in areas within 200 feet of any private or parochial K-12 school. R.I. Gen. Laws § 3-7-19.

Willful disturbance of a private school is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $500. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-11-1.

It is a criminal offense to willfully trespass on private school property after being suspended from attendance or forbidden by a police officer, guard or school official, punishable by incremental fines for repeated offenses. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-44-26.1.

Possession of a firearm on private school grounds, except for educational purposes, is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years, or a fine not less than $500 nor more than $5,000. R.I. Gen. Laws § 1-47-60.

Transportation: School committees must provide transportation to and from school for elementary and high school pupils attending private schools if the pupil resides so far from the school as to make the pupil's attendance impractical, or if a student's physical disability or infirmity would make attendance impracticable. Private schools operated for profit are not eligible. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-21-1, 1-1, 1-2. As long as eligibility is determined by the same criterion for public and parochial school students and the relative costs remain roughly proportional, the provision of transportation does not advance religion and is constitutional. Jamestown School Comm. v. Schmidt, 699 F.2d 1 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 851 (1983).

Home Schooling: Approval of home instruction occurs at the local level. At-home instruction is approved when it complies with the following requirements: the period of attendance is substantially equal to that required in public schools; attendance registers and registers indicating the amount of daily instruction by subject are kept; and reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, U.S. history, Rhode Island history, and principles of American government are taught in the English language. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Private schools may participate in the federally funded school lunch program operated in the state. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-8-7 et seq.

Rhode Island loans textbooks free of charge to all pupils of elementary and secondary schools including private schools. This provision withstood a constitutional challenge under both the Rhode Island and United States constitutions in Bowerman v. O'Connor, 247 A.2d 82 (1968).

Miscellaneous: Whenever a K-9 pupil fails to report to school and no indication has been received by the private school that the pupil's parent/guardian is aware of the pupil's absence, the school must make a reasonable effort to notify the parents of the child's absence. School personnel or volunteers organized for this purpose are immune from any civil or criminal liability in connection with the notice to parents. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-10.

Private schools that provide multiple kindergarten sessions must make every effort to give written notice to parents which session their child has been placed 30 days before the start of the school year. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-2-28.2.

The Secretary of State submits to the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education all amendments to charters or articles of incorporation of existing corporations that add educational functions for the Board's approval. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-40-3.

By statute, the Best and Brightest Scholarship Fund includes two parents of public or private school students on the nine-member scholarship committee. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-37-3.



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.