RECORDS TO BE KEPT ON FILE BY PRIVATE SCHOOLS
The following records are required to be kept by all California private schools:
Private School Affidavit (EC §33190)
Attendance Records (EC §48222)
Courses of Study Offered (EC §33190)
Faculty Qualifications (EC §33190)
Criminal Record Summaries (EC §33190 and EC §44237) (Not required when the teacher is the parent.)
Immunization Records or Waivers (Health and Safety Code §120335)
Health Exam Form or Waiver for Children Entering 1st Grade (Health and Safety Code §124085)
We recommend that you keep these records in two separate binders or folders. The first should hold the records that a government official, such as an attendance officer, is legally entitled to see without a warrant or a subpoena: a copy of the filed private school affidavit, your attendance records, and a one time letter verifying that the children are enrolled in and attending the school. The second should hold all of the other required records identified in the list above: courses of study offered, faculty qualifications, criminal record summaries (not required if the only students in your school are your own children), and immunizations records or waivers. Although you are required to keep these, no public official is entitled to see them without a subpoena. In fact, we believe that many of these records cannot even be seen with a subpoena. However, the law requires you to have them, and you are signing, under penalty of perjury, that you do have them.
Letter for Your Binder
The legal team has prepared a letter that you can give to anyone who challenges your authority to homeschool or who demands to see any papers other than your affidavit and attendance records. The letter explains what statutory authority there is for parents forming their own home-based private schools and covers which documents the state has the authority to see and which it does not. We recommend that you print out a copy of this letter and put it in the binder you keep with your copy of your affidavit.
Attendance records can be as simple as a one-page calendar containing boxes for each day of the school year, with a notation at the bottom stating that days absent are indicated with a mark. You are free to decide the length of each school day and school year and when it is in session. Only mark when your child is absent. If they are learning, they are in school.
Courses of Study
Generally, instruction must be in English and "in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools" (§48222), but how or what you teach within those branches is up to you. To meet this requirement your school could keep a printed copy of the code sections that set forth the branches of study the state requires schools to offer. The "adopted course of study for grades 1 to 6" is set forth in §51210, and the "adopted course of study for grades 7 to 12" is set forth in §§51220, 51220.5, and 51221 (these lists are fairly general and far less specific than the state standards that public schools must teach).
Another alternative is to obtain a copy of the courses of study offered by a local public school. Although instruction must be offered in those areas by the school, it is not necessary to teach each and every subject. You are free to decide which courses would most benefit your students and how to teach them. However, a court may decide that your school is illegal if certain subjects are not offered. (See In re Shinn (1961) 195 Cal.App.2d 683.)
Faculty and Employees
Teachers in private schools do not need to hold state teaching credentials, even though many state officials seem to think they do. The statute is very clear on this point. §48222 requires that the teachers be "capable of teaching," but this phrase is not explained or defined. We believe most people who can speak and read competently in English generally could be capable.
Most home-based private schools do not have any employees because the parents are the primary teachers. Parents teaching their children are the faculty. Keep updated résumés of the “faculty” in your school records, including their names, addresses and qualifications. If the teacher (you) does not have a credential, list other qualifications that make him or her capable of teaching. These qualifications could include experience teaching in your school, other work or volunteer experience, undergraduate and advanced degrees, educational conferences attended, including homeschool conferences, or training sessions.
Some homeschooling families hire others to help with certain aspects of their children's education, such as piano teachers or athletic coaches. Weekly piano lessons or even daily sports lessons do not qualify these teachers as your employees. However, if you are interested in hiring full- or part-time teachers, you can do so. Any employee hired to work with your children must provide you with sufficient information to determine that he or she is capable of teaching. Additionally, you must obtain the criminal record summary and TB certificate described above.
"'Employment' means the act of engaging the services of a person, who will have contact with pupils, to work in a position at a private school at the elementary or high school level . . . on a regular, paid full-time basis, regular, paid part-time basis or paid full- or part-time seasonal basis." (EC §44237(b)(2).) Thus, the piano teacher or gymnastics instructor with his or her own studio, and a grandmother teaching her grandchildren without being paid, are not employees. However, anyone you hire and pay to teach within your home under your direction on a regular full- or part-time basis may be considered an employee. You may wish to consult with an attorney to clarify the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. Each situation is unique and can have important tax and record-keeping consequences.
Criminal Record Summary
§44237 explicitly states that the criminal record summary is not required for parents teaching only their children. Since most homeschooling families do not hire employees, the exact procedure will not be discussed in depth in this article. However, if you do hire others to teach your children full time in your home, you may need to obtain criminal record summary information on them. Each employee must submit two sets of fingerprints that the school then submits to the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Further information can be obtained from your local county office of education.
First Graders Health Form or Waiver
For first graders only, there is a “Health Exam for School Entry” form. However, it is not mandatory and parents can opt out of this exam with a waiver.