Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Church-related schools are required to meet the standards of accreditation or membership of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, the Association of Christian Schools International, the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools, or a school affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. Church-related schools may voluntarily seek approval by the State Board of Education. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801.

The Commissioner of Education has the power to inspect, approve and classify private schools, K-12, upon request, provided that the same standards are used as for public schools. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-1-201(19).

Recordkeeping/Reports: Principals and teachers of private, denominational or parochial schools must report to the local superintendent the names, ages and residence of all pupils in attendance at their schools within 30 days after the beginning of the school year. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3007(c).

All private and parochial schools shall keep daily reports of attendance, verified by the teacher making such record and open for inspection by the local superintendent. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3007(d). Private schools are under a duty to report promptly to the local superintendent the names of students who have withdrawn or who have been absent 5 days without adequate excuse. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3007(e).

Length of School Year/Day: Church-related schools must be conducted for the same length of term as public schools. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801(c).

Curriculum: Private high schools which offer a four-year course in literary branches must require every student to have one year of instruction in American history and government. Failure to comply will automatically remove the school from the list of accredited high schools. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1202.

Special Education: Every school district must test and examine, or cause to be tested and examined, each Tennessee resident attending a private school within its boundaries to determine whether such child is handicapped. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-10-108.

The Department of Education is empowered to provide special schools and special classes in private schools, and transportation to and from school for physically handicapped, visually handicapped and crippled children. Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-12-109.

Blind students have the option of attending any private school that teaches the course of study used in the public schools, or a course of study adapted for the blind and approved by the Commissioner of Education. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3015(c).

A Special Education Services Association may make arrangements and pay private schools for services to handicapped children if the association is unable to provide satisfactory service with its own facilities or the facilities of member school districts. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-10-205.

Health: The Commissioner of Health is authorized, subject to the approval of the public health council, to designate diseases against which children must be immunized prior to attendance at any school of Tennessee. Parents may file a written statement with the school authorities that such immunizations conflict with their religious tenets and practices. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-5001.

Safety: Fire drills must be held at least twice a month in private schools. A record of all fire drills, including the time and date, must be kept in the respective school and made available upon request to the State Fire Marshal. Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-102-137.

All doors serving as exits must be kept unlocked during the periods that a building is occupied. Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-102-137.

It is a criminal offense in Tennessee for a student to carry a firearm, not for instruction or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in a private school building, bus, campus or athletic field. Private school administrators must display in prominent locations a sign, at least 6 inches high and fourteen inches wide, stating: FELONY. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF SIX (6) YEARS IMPRISONMENT AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($3,000) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309.

The chief administrative officer of any private, denominational or parochial school, who has probable cause to believe that any person has committed a drug-related offense on school grounds has a duty to report such probable cause to the local law enforcement official. Tenn. Code Ann. § 53-11-405(b).

Sentencing under a conviction for the sale of a controlled substance may be enhanced if the sale was to a minor within 1,000 feet of a private school building. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-114.

School personnel having knowledge of any child who is suffering from any physical or mental condition which reasonably appears to have been caused by brutality, abuse or neglect, must report the harm immediately. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-403.

School personnel who know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been sexually abused must report such knowledge or suspicion. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-605.

Community residential facilities that accommodate state or federal adult prisoners on release programs are prohibited within 1,000 feet of a private school in counties with populations of 750,000 or more, or counties having a metropolitan form of government. Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-22-128.

Home Schooling: There are two sets of procedures for home schooling in Tennessee. One is for Independent Home Schools and one is for Church-Related Home Schools. A Church-Related School is a school operated under denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organizations that are required to meet standards of accreditation or membership in one of several private school associations. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801. Parents can register with church-related schools to conduct home schools in grades K-12.

An Independent Home School is a school conducted by parents or legal guardians for their own children that is not a church-related school. The intent to operate an independent home school must be submitted to the local superintendent before the commencement of each school year. These home schools register only with the local school system. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3050(b). Health records must be included the first time an application is filed.

Home school students entering public schools are treated as students entering from other non-approved schools regarding credit for work transferred and examinations that may be required. State Board of Education Rule No. 0520-1-2-03 (11).

No diplomas or certificates of attendance are given by Tennessee to students who are home schooled.

Independent Home Schools:

  • Parents or legal guardians conducting an independent home school must register their child by August 1 of each year with the superintendent of schools. There is a provision for late registration and possible payment of a late fee.
  • Parents or legal guardians conducting an independent home school must have a high school diploma or a GED to teach grades K-8 or a BA to teach grades 9-12. Parents or legal guardians conducting an independent home school may subscribe to any curriculum they choose.
  • Students must attend a minimum of four hours of school per day for 180 days per year. Attendance records are sent to the Superintendent at the end of the school year.
  • Independent home school students are required to take the same State Board approved secure standardized tests required of public school students in grades 5, 7, and 9, except that the high school proficiency test is not required of ninth graders who are home schooled. If students score one year or more below grade level for two years in a row, the Superintendent may request that the parent enroll the child in public or private school, unless the child is learning disabled.

State recognized church-related home schools:

  • All home school students registered with a State recognized church-related school in grades 9 through 12 must register with the local school system as well as the State-recognized church-related school.
  • Parents or legal guardians conducting a State-recognized church-related home school in grades K-8 must have an educational level as determined by the church-related school; those teaching grades 9-12 must have a high school diploma or GED. A parent who meets these educational requirements may start a church-related home school at any time during the school year set by the State-recognized church-related school. Parents register in grades K-8 with the State-recognized church-related school and for grades 9-12 with both the church-related school and the local school system.
  • The hours of attendance are determined by the State-recognized church-related school. All students must attend school for 180 days. Record-keeping is also determined by the State-recognized church-related school.
  • Testing in grades K-8 State-recognized church-related home schools is under the supervision of the church-related schools. State-recognized church-related home school students in grades 9-12 must take the Secondary Subject Area Test. The curriculum may be determined by the State-recognized church-related school in grades K-12.
  • Students in grades 9-12 who score below average in achievement on standardized tests two years in a row shall be enrolled in public or private school.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Admission to events or activities sponsored by private schools, K-12, is exempt from amusement tax. Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-6-330(a)(1).

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.