Virginia State Regulations
Updated September 23, 2014
State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- Accreditation is optional.
- The board of education does not accredit private schools but recognizes accreditation by the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE), a private umbrella organization that approves the accreditation processes of its association member organizations. The Board authorizes accreditation by VCPE member organizations. Va. Code §22.1-19.
- State law only guarantees that private school course credits will be recognized if they were completed at a state-recognized accredited school. Va. Code §22.1-19.
- Registration has no requirements.
- Licensing is optional.
- Licensing by the Virginia Board of Education is mandatory for private schools serving students with disabilities unless otherwise approved or accredited. Va. Code §§22.1-320 and 22.1-323.
- The license of each school that continues to operate as such shall be renewed on or before the anniversary date set by the Virginia Department of Education. Every license that has not been renewed in accordance with these provisions shall expire and a new license shall be obtained from the board before such school may continue to operate, for which an original application must be submitted. The application shall be accompanied by such information deemed necessary by the board. Va. Code §22.1-328.
- Licensing for preschools is mandatory unless the school qualifies for an exemption from the state. Va. Code §63.2-1717.
- Approval is optional.
- Approval of the licensing application satisfies the licensing requirement for private schools serving students with disabilities. 8VAC20-670-40.
- Teacher certification is not required by the state; however, an approved accrediting association may set its own requirements for teacher credentials.
Length of School Year and Days
- Virginia’s compulsory attendance laws require children to attend school ─ public, private, denomination or parochial ─ during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools. The length of the school term for public schools is at least 180 days or 990 teaching hours. Va. Code §§22.1-254, 22.1-98.
- The state does not require a specific curriculum for private schools.
Recordkeeping and Reports
- Every teacher in every school in Virginia must keep an accurate daily record of attendance for all children enrolled. The record must be open for inspection and may be admitted into evidence for prosecutions of violations of the compulsory school attendance laws. Va. Code §22.1-259.
- Schools must record each student’s immunizations on the school immunization record provided by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for the student’s permanent record. The record must be kept open for inspection by VDH and the local health department. Within 30 days of the start of school, private schools must file a report with the local health department stating the number of students admitted with documentary proof of immunization, the number of students admitted with a medical or religious exemption, and the number of students conditionally admitted. Va. Code §22.1-271.2.E.
Health and Safety Requirements
- For admittance to a school, a student or the student’s parents must submit documentary proof of immunization, an affidavit stating the immunizations conflict with the student’s religious tenets, or certification from a physician that the immunization is detrimental to the student’s health. Conditional admittance is allowed if a student’s immunizations are incomplete and she submits a schedule for completion within 90 calendar days. The state health commissioner has the authority to exclude children from school who are not immunized in the event of an outbreak, potential epidemic, or epidemic. Va. Code §§22.1-271.2, 32.1-47.
- The state health commissioner has the authority to inspect dining accommodations of private schools upon presentation of credentials and consent by the owner or custodian. Va. Code §§35.1-1.9.a (includes school cafeterias in the definition of “restaurant”), 35.1-5 (gives VDH the right to inspect).
- Employees of private schools who have reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected must report the matter immediately to the local social services department of the county or city where the child resides or where the alleged abuse occurred or to the Virginia Department of Social Services’ toll-free child abuse and neglect hotline. Va. Code §63.2-1509.
- It is a criminal offense in Virginia to distribute any controlled substance, imitation controlled substance, or marijuana on the property of a private elementary or secondary school, within 1,000 feet of the school, or on any school bus. Va. Code §18.2-255.2.A.
- Virginia’s criminal code prohibits 1) the willful discharge of a firearm, unless justifiable by law; 2) brandishing a firearm in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear of being shot or injured; and 3) possession of a stun weapon, taser, or weapon other than a firearm, in any private or parochial elementary, middle or high school or within 1,000 feet of the school. Va. Code §§18.2-280B, 18.2-282A, 18.2-308.1.
- The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board may refuse to grant a liquor license if the location of the applicant would adversely affect the operations of a private or parochial school. Va. Code §4.1-222.A.2.c.
- The governing board of a private school must furnish protective eye devices, free or at cost, for students, teachers, and visitors participating in specified vocational or industrial arts shops or laboratories. Va. Code §22.1-275.
- All applicants for full-time, part-time, permanent and/or temporary employment at an accredited private or religious K–12 school are required to submit to fingerprinting and to provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded along with the applicant’s fingerprints through the Central Criminal Records Exchange to the FBI for the purpose of obtaining criminal history record information as a condition of employment. This is not a requirement for non-accredited schools. Va. Code §22.1-296.3.
- Local school districts may, though are not required to, enter into agreements with private schools to provide students transportation to and from school. Va. Code § 22.1-176.1.
- School bus drivers hired by parochial and private schools in Virginia must meet the qualifications and provide the same documentation required of public school bus drivers. Va. Code §§22.1-180, 22.1-178.
- School buses transporting pupils to and from private or parochial schools may not discharge pupils in a manner that the child must cross a highway with two or more roadways separated by a physical barrier or unpaved area, or a highway with five or more lanes with the center lane a flush median marked for turning traffic only. Va. Code §46.2-918.
- “With the approval of the local school board and the publisher, any private school within the school division that so requests may purchase from the local school board’s contract with the publisher. Such private school shall be fully responsible for ordering, purchasing, and receiving shipments of books to be provided from the publisher pursuant to this section. The local school board shall be immune from any civil liability as a result of a private school purchasing from the local school board’s contract.” Va. Code §22.1-241.D.
- Private school students are not required to participate in state administered tests unless the student is a child with a disability who has been placed by a local school division or is placed for non-educational reasons by a Comprehensive Services Act team that includes the school division. Virginia Administrative Code, 8 VAC 20-81-150.A of the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia.
- A school division may publicly place a child with disabilities in a nonsectarian private school approved by the Virginia State Board of Education or another licensing agency if the school division is unable to provide a free appropriate public education for the child. Va. Code §22.1-216.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq. does not require Virginia to place handicapped children in nonapproved private schools. Schimmel ex rel. Schimmel v. Spillane, 819 F.2d 477 (4th Cir. 1987).
- Private educational institutions that accept state funds may not deny admission, full and equal access, or the enjoyment of any educational or extracurricular program to an otherwise qualified person with a disability. Va. Code §51.5-42.
- Students with special needs are eligible to participate in state tax-credit scholarship program. Those students with a current individualized educational program and whose family’s annual household income is not in excess of 400 percent of the current poverty guidelines can be considered. Va. Code §§58.1-439.25, 58.1-439.28.
Nursing and Health
- A trained, unlicensed person who has successfully completed a Virginia Board of Nursing approved medication administration training (MAT) may administer patient-specific drugs in a private school setting. If written authorization from a parent or guardian is obtained, the school’s trained staff member may administer epinephrine according to the prescription label to the specific child for whom the medication was dispensed by a pharmacy. Va. Code §§54.1-3005, 54.1-3408.O.
- Both registered and licensed practical nurses who work in Virginia private schools are authorized to administer prescription medications with parental consent. Va. Code §§ 54.1-3408, 54.1-3000.
- As of October 1, 2013, the administration of medications to children with diabetes who require insulin and/or glucagon, and children with diabetes or a seizure disorder who require emergency rectal medications must complete the appropriate MAT course for each particular medication. Without the approved proper training, the administration of the medications to children with these conditions would violate the Virginia Drug Control Act. Va. Code § 54.1-3400 et seq.
- Effective July 1, 2013, any person seeking a first-time teaching license or license renewal to provide emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and use of an automated external defibrillator must submit written documentation that shows successful completion of a training or certification program that includes all three topics. Va. Code §22.1-298.1.D(4). [Note: This provision applies only to teachers seeking initial licensure or licensure renewal from the Virginia Department of Education.] Online training or certification that meets the standards of instruction for these topics may be accepted to meet this requirement. For license renewal, individuals must seek approval of activities for renewal from their school heads of accredited nonpublic schools in Virginia. Virginia Department of Education’s Attachment A, Memo No. 156-13; June 7, 2013.
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to technology with private schools.
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to professional development with private schools.
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to reimbursement for performing state and local functions with private school.
- Property owned by nonprofit institutions of learning and used primarily for educational purposes is exempt from state and local taxation. Va. Const. Art. X, Section 6(4).
- Fairfax, Arlington, Dinwiddie, and Prince George counties are authorized to tax admission charged for attendance at private elementary and secondary school-sponsored events, including events sponsored by school-recognized student organizations. Charlotte County, Clarke County, Madison County, Nelson County, and Sussex County are authorized to levy a tax on admissions charged for attendance at any spectator event; however “spectator event” is not defined. Va. Code §§58.1-3817, 58.1-3818.
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: Under Virginia’s constitution, no appropriation may be made to any school not owned or exclusively controlled by the state or a political subdivision; provided, the General Assembly may make appropriations for the elementary and secondary education of Virginia students in nonsectarian private schools. Va. Const. Art. VIII, Section 10.
- Programs for Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Schools: The Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program was established in 2012 and allows individuals, business entities, and corporations to receive Virginia state tax credits for charitable contributions to state-department-of-education-approved scholarship foundations beginning in the taxable year 2013. These foundations provide scholarships to eligible students for attendance at eligible nonpublic K-12 accredited schools located within the Commonwealth. An assurance by the scholarship foundation is made to the state department of education that any scholarships awarded for qualified educational expenses are made to students whose family’s annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent of the current poverty guidelines or to eligible students with a disability. The amount of tax credit for individuals and corporations is equal to 65 percent of the amount contributed (minimum of $500 donation). Tax credits may not exceed $50,000 in a taxable year for individuals and married persons. This $50,000 limitation does not apply to businesses, including a sole proprietorship. Tax credits are awarded to donors on a first-come, first-served basis by the date received. The total amount of tax credits allowable for each fiscal year is $25 million. Va. Code § 58.1-439.25 et seq.The Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit Program for Education was created by the 1981 General Assembly and allows individuals and businesses to make donations to approved 501(c) (3) neighborhood organizations for scholastic instruction or assistance to low-income individuals or eligible students with disabilities. Those making donations may receive tax credits equal to sixty-five percent of the donation that may be applied against their state income tax liability. The donation range for individuals is $500 to $125,000 while the minimum for businesses is $615.39 with no maximum. Neighborhood organizations are approved for a twelve-month period (July 1 – June 30) and must reapply each year to participate by meeting six criteria. Va. Code § 58.1-439.18 through 58.1-439.22, and 58.1-439.24.
- Parents providing home instruction are in compliance with the compulsory attendance law if they meet all requirements of the Code of Virginia governing home instruction. Va. Code §22.1-254.
- Instruction in the home of a child or children by the parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of such child or children shall not be classified or defined as a private, denominational, or parochial school. Va. Code §22.1-254.
- Parents may also teach their own children under the “tutor” provision or the “religious exemption” provision of the compulsory attendance law. A tutor must have a valid Virginia teaching license in any area. Va. Code §§22.1-254.A, 22.1-254.B.1.
Initial and Renewal Applications
- A parent who elects to home instruct must 1) notify the school division superintendent no later than August 15 of the intent to do so for the coming school year; 2) provide a list of subjects to be studied for the coming year; and 3) provide evidence of having met one of the criteria to permit home instruction. Va. Code §22.1-254.1.
- Parents who move into the school division or begin home instruction after the school year has begun must notify the school division superintendent of their intent to provide home instruction within a reasonable amount of time. After doing so, the parents have 30 days to present the required information to the school division office. Va. Code §22.1-254.1.B.
- Parents, guardians, or other persons in charge of a child being home instructed or exempted from school attendance must ensure that the state immunization requirements required of a child enrolled in and attending school are being met. Va. Code §§22.1-254, 22.1-254.1, 22.1-271.4, 32.1-46.
Curriculum and Instruction
- Parents are permitted to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance if they meet any one of the following four conditions. The teaching parent 1) holds a high school diploma or higher credential certificate (a high school equivalency examination approved by the board of education [formerly known as a GED] will not satisfy this requirement); 2) meets the qualifications for a teacher prescribed by the board of education; 3) enrolls the child or children in a correspondence course or distance learning program; or 4) provides evidence that he or she is able to provide an adequate education for the child (parents’ instructional plan includes content of “reasonable scope and sequence”). Va. Code §22.1-254.1.
Assessment and Diplomas
- Annually by August 1, the parent is required to submit to the local superintendent evidence of the child’s home instruction accomplishments or academic achievement. The parent may either present evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on any nationally normed standardized achievement test or provide an evaluation or assessment that, in the judgment of the division superintendent, indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of education growth and progress. The latter option includes but is not limited to “(a) an evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline, having knowledge of the child’s academic progress, stating that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress; or (b) a report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance learning program, or home-education correspondence school.” Va. Code § 22.1-254.1.C.
- The local school board is required to notify families of homeschooled students about Advanced Placement (AP) and Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude (PSAT) tests as well as the availability of financial assistance for low-income and needy students who may be interested in taking these exams. Va. Code §22.1-254.1.F.
- Those homeschooled students 16 years or older who have completed their homeschool instruction may participate in the state’s program of testing for general educational development (GED) and earn a high school equivalency certificate or a diploma. Va. Code §22.1-254.2.A.2.
Public School Access
- Local school boards may permit part-time enrollment of home-school students. Students may be allowed to enroll in classes in English, mathematics, science, history, social science, foreign language, career and technical education, health education, physical education, or fine arts. Va. Code §22.1-253.13:2.N.
- Participation in certain interscholastic activities such as varsity sports is governed by policies of the Virginia High School League (VHSL). Other extracurricular activities are governed by policies of the local school board. Virginia Administrative Code, 8 VAC 20-131-200.
- Children who are taught by their parents under the religious exemption provision of the compulsory attendance law are not eligible to enroll in a public school on a part-time basis. Va. Code §§22.1-254.1, 22.1-253.13:2(N).
Information and Legislation
- Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE)
- Virginia Department of Education (VDOE): Home Instruction
- VDOE: Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program
- VDOE: Neighborhood Assistance Act
- Virginia General Assembly: Code of Virginia
Contact Information—State and Federal Departments of Education
Virginia Department of Education (mailing address)
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, VA 23218; or
Virginia Department of Education (street address)
James Monroe Building
101 North 14th St.
Richmond, VA 23219
U.S. Department of Education: Virginia
Updated September 23, 2014