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RHODE ISLAND
Updated June 25, 2013

State Regulation

State Regulation of Private and Home Schools — Map
Note this is a stand-alone state chapter.
State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.


Private Schools

Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval

  • Accreditation has no requirements.
  • Registration is mandatory.
    • Registration with the office of the department of elementary and secondary education is required for all private schools. The registry must show the location, name, director or principal of school, grade span, enrollment, school approval status, and other pertinent facts. RIGL §§16-40-11, 16-97 et. seq.
  • Licensing has no requirements.
  • Approval is mandatory.
    • Approval by the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required for private schools. RIGL §16-19-2.
    • The Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approves private schools that comply with requirements for curriculum, teacher quality, and attendance to the length of school year and instructional time, student health and safety, record keeping, and compliance with state and municipal school site regulations. The commissioner of elementary and secondary education will grant a hearing to private schools that are denied approval. On appeal, the decision of the board of regents is final. RIGL §§16-19-2, 16-60-4 (10), 16-97 et. seq.

    Teacher Certification

    • Certification is not required for private school teachers. In general, teachers are expected to maintain and develop up-to-date competencies with appropriate professional development in the content area or grade levels they teach. All teachers in private schools must have a national and state criminal records check. RIGL §§16-9-2, 16-2-18.1.

    Length of School Year and Days

    • The period of attendance for private schools must be substantially equal to that required in public schools, which is at least for 180 days annually. RIGL §16-2-2, §16-19-2. The minimum amount of daily instructional time for public school students is five and a half hours. Rhode Island Board of Education Regulations G-4-4, G-4-11 (formerly designated as Rhode Island Regents Regulations).

    Curriculum

    • A full curriculum for all grades and subjects must be substantially equivalent to that taught in the public schools. Instruction must be provided in the following core academic areas: reading, writing, geography/social studies, arithmetic, the history of the United States and Rhode Island, civics education, and the principles of American government. These subjects must be taught in the English language substantially to the same extent as required in the public schools. Instruction in the principles of popular and representative government under the Rhode Island and United States constitutions must be provided as well as instruction in health and physical education similar to that required in public schools. RIGL §§16-19-2, 16-22-2, 16-22-4. Rhode Island Board of Education Regulations L-6-1.0(g) (formerly designated as Rhode Island Regents Regulations).
    • Each school shall have a carefully planned program of study and activities consistent with its policy and objectives, which shall be approved by the commissioner of education. RIGL §16-19-2.

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    Recordkeeping and 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. RIGL §16-12-4.
    • 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 or 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. RIGL §16-19-10.
    • Private schools that provide multiple kindergarten sessions must make every effort to give written notice to parents about which session their child has been placed 30 days before the start of the school year. RIGL §16-2-28.2.
    • Private schools that close are required to make accessible student academic and attendance records as well as to obtain approval from the commissioner of elementary and secondary education as to the method these student records will be made available. RIGL §16-40-16.

    Health and Safety Requirements

    • 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 or guardian stating that immunization is contrary to their beliefs. RIGL §16-38-2.
    • 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 and training 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 to exceed $500. RIGL §16-21-3, 3.1.
    • Effective July 1, 2012, schools including residential child care institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program will be subject to revised nutrition requirements intended to improve the health and well-being of students consuming school meals.
    • Right to a safe school: "Each student, staff member, teacher, and administrator has a right to attend and/or work at a school which is safe and secure, and which is conducive to learning, and which is free from the threat, actual or implied, of physical harm by a disruptive student." RIGL §16-2-17.
    • Private schools are subject to the Rhode Island Safe Schools Act on bullying – a statewide bullying policy, ensuring a consistent and unified statewide approach to the prohibition of bullying at school. RIGL §§16-21-33, 16-21-34.
    • Private schools are subject to the RI Rules and Regulations for School Health Programs. RIGL §16-21-7.
    • Private schools must instruct and train the pupils by means of drills to leave school buildings and/or be locked down in an emergency in the shortest possible time and without confusion or panic. Fifteen drills are required annually, of which at least eight must be held during September, October, and November. At least four drills must be obstructed, i.e. at least one or more exits and stairways blocked; two of the obstructed drills must be held during September and October and four drills must exercise lockdown and evacuation procedures. Neglect by a private school to comply is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. RIGL §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. RIGL §16-21-15.
    • Retail licenses to sell alcoholic beverages are restricted in areas within 200 feet of any private or parochial K–12 school. RIGL §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. RIGL §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. RIGL §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 or more than $5,000. RIGL §11-47-60.

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    Transportation

    • Rhode Island is divided into five regional transportation areas. Districts must provide transportation for private school students within the district and within the region if no other similar school operates within the district. 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. RIGL §16-21-1.

    Textbooks

    • Rhode Island loans textbooks free of charge to all pupils of elementary and secondary schools including private schools. Local school districts must loan textbooks in reading/language arts, history/social studies, science, math, and modern foreign languages, as well as texts for some other subject areas. However, the only books that can be loaned are books being used in the public schools of Rhode Island as published on a state approved textbook list. Other instructional materials will have to be purchased. RIGL §16-23-2.

    Testing

    • Private school students' participation in state testing is voluntary. RIGL§16-22-9.

    Special Education

    • Notwithstanding any other federal or state law or regulation, the school committee where a parentally placed child who has or develops a disability in private school resides, shall provide the child with the same free and appropriate education as it provides to children in public schools. These children shall have the same rights and remedies in the regulations of the board of regents for elementary and secondary education governing the education of children with disabilities as children in public school relative to initially determining eligibility, implementation and/or any other rights and remedies relative to any special education services the child may be eligible or receive from the public school district. RIGL §16-24-1.

    Nursing and Health

    • Private schools are required to have a comprehensive health and physical education program. All private school students must participate in health screening requirements. Private schools have regulations for the investment of school nurses that ensure students quality services. RIGL §16-21 et. seq.
    • Private schools may participate in the federally funded school lunch program operated in the state. RIGL §16-8-7 et. seq.
    • Private schools are subject to the Rhode Island Rules and Regulations for School Health Programs. RIGL §16-21-7.

    Technology

    • There is no state policy at this time pertaining to technology in private schools.

    Professional Development

    • Private school faculty is encouraged to continue professional development throughout their careers. Opportunities for professional development may be sent to private schools by the state through the private school listserv.

    Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions

    • There is no state policy at this time pertaining to reimbursement for performing state and local functions.

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    Tax Exemption

    • Rhode Island has a state policy that recognizes tax-exempt status for private schools. RIGL §44-3-3.

    Public Aid for Private Education

    • Constitutional Provisions: No person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person’s voluntary contract. Rhode Island Constitution Art. I, §3.

    • Programs for Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Schools: In 2007, Rhode Island began the Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which provides tax credits to corporations that contribute to Scholarship Organizations (SOs). Corporations received a credit valued at 75 percent of the contributions made or 90 percent if the second-year donation is worth at least 80 percent of the first year’s donation, with a maximum credit of $100,000. The state has capped the amount of credits available to be $1 million. In order for students to be eligible for these corporate scholarships they must be from families whose income does not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level. RIGL §44-62 et. seq.

    Home Schools

    • Approval of home instruction occurs at the local level with the local school committee. RIGL §16-19-1(a).
    • The state does not apply private school approval standards to home schools; therefore, a home school is not considered a private school.

    Curriculum and Instruction

    • At-home instruction is approved when it complies with the following requirements: the period of attendance is substantially equal to that required in a public school which is five and one-half hours per day for a minimum of 180 days; attendance registers and registers indicating the amount of daily instruction by subject are kept. RIGL §16-19-2. Rhode Island Board of Education Regulations G-4-4, G-4-11 (formerly designated as Rhode Island Regents Regulations).
    • State law requires the instruction be in English and the curriculum to include: reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, history of the United States, history of Rhode Island, principles of American Government, health and physical education. Also, beginning with fourth grade, history and government of Rhode Island must be taught. In high school, the U.S. Constitution and Rhode Island Constitution must be taught. RIGL §16-19-2.
    • A teaching certificate is not required, but the instructor is expected to provide "thorough and efficient instruction." RIGL §16-19-2.
    • Local school districts must loan textbooks in science, math, and modern foreign languages, as well as texts for some other subject areas. However, the only books that can be loaned are books being used in the public schools of Rhode Island. Other instructional materials will have to be purchased. RIGL §16-23-2.

    Assessment and Diplomas

    • The parent and the local school committee must agree on a method of evaluating the student’s progress in all required subjects. RIGL §16-19-2.
    • The completion of a program through at-home instruction does not entitle students to the resident district’s high school diploma.

    Public School Access

    • A homeschooled student may participate in activities sponsored by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) provided there is compliance with RIIL’s Rule 3, Section 1.

    Web Resources

    Information and Legislation

    Contact Information – State and Federal Departments of Education

    • Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
      255 Westminster Street
      Providence, RI 02903-3400
      Phone: 401-222-8979
      Website: http://www.ride.ri.gov
    • U.S. Department of Education, Rhode Island

    Updated June 25, 2013

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Last Modified: 06/26/2013