Pathways Academy is an Alabama church school offering our enrolled families a legal covering, educational guidance, a strong support system, and the accountability necessary for promoting a thorough, Christ-centered education. It is our sincere prayer that Pathways Academy will provide an atmosphere in which families will seek God’s glory in all of their endeavors. The Pathways Academy Administrators and Board of Directors firmly believe the responsibility for a child’s education and the direction of his/her mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical growth is given by God to the parents of the child. Therefore, we think parent-teachers should be allowed to determine what their child(ren) learn, the best teaching method to fit their child(ren)’s learning styles, and how best to help their child(ren) pursue individual academic goals. As such, we provide the following information to help parents understand the homeschool options under Alabama law.
As of July 1, 2014 there are 3 options to legally homeschool in Alabama.
1. ENROLL IN A CHURCH SCHOOL– Families may enroll their children in a Church School located within the state of Alabama. This is the most popular and easiest option to homeschool legally in Alabama. Depending on which church school covering your family chooses to enroll, this option can allow families the most freedom.
According to Ala. Code § 16-28-1, “A church school includes only schools that offer instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof, including preschool, through on-site or home programs, and are operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches which do not receive any state or federal funding.” Every child attending a church school is exempt from the requirements of this [compulsory attendance] section provided the child complies with the procedure in Ala. Code § 16-28-7 which requires a parent or guardian to file a church school enrollment form and report attendance to the church school in which their child is enrolled according to Ala. Code § 16-28-8.
By Alabama law, church school administrators are required to:
Keep records of attendance for each enrolled student
Notify the local Board of Education when a student withdraws or fails to re-enroll with the church school
Most Alabama church schools provide many more services and all church cover schools are allowed to set their own requirements for the good of the students enrolled. Please remember that enrolling in a church school IS a legal option under Alabama State Law. The Church School Enrollment form (CSEF) is filed with the local Board of Education in which your family resides. This is the only form that is required by law. The principals, secretary, counselors, teachers, and employees of your previous school are NOT legally entitled to any documentation regarding education in your home. While you should always be respectful to public and private school officials, you are not required to give them any paperwork other than the request for school records.
By law, parents of students enrolled in a church cover school are required to:
Submit a signed and validated enrollment form to their local Board of Education superintendent upon enrollment with a church school. This form must be resubmitted if the family or student moves to a new address. The church school is permitted to do this on your behalf, but the parent/guardian is responsible for making sure the Church School Enrollment Form has been submitted properly.
Parents are required to submit attendance records to the church school administrator.
2. PRIVATE SCHOOL OPTION – Alabama law states that a private school is established, conducted, and supported by a nongovernmental entity or agency offering educational instruction in grades K–12 or any combination thereof, including preschool, through onsite or home programs. A home may be the location where a child receives instruction as a student attending a private school. A parent may establish a private school in the home, or the home may be an extension of an existing private school. Please contact your local Board of Education for proper documentation. Before taking on this task, it is recommended that parents consider the time and energy necessary to establish a private school correctly and balance the roles of administrator, teacher, and parent. Assuming the role of administrator means you will be responsible for keeping accurate records, submitting reports (as required) to your local and state authorities, and fulfilling any requirements of the Alabama State Board of Education. You will be responsible for establishing guidelines for your students, signing and sending out all forms, transcripts and diplomas, and keeping permanent files on record for future requests from colleges and employers. You will need to stay aware of any changes occurring in the homeschool laws as the Alabama State School Superintendent can interpret the private school requirements differently at his/her discretion. Because this is a new option, there is a potential for challenges to be made and responsibility for failing to enroll your child(ren) correctly will fall on the parents, not the State. As such, we recommend families read and review HSLDA’s opinion of the private homeschool law thoroughly before undertaking this option.
3. UNDER INSTRUCTION OF A PRIVATE TUTOR – This option allows parents who are certified teachers or families wishing to hire a state certified teacher to serve as a tutor for their children. Teachers must report to the local Board of Education and provide instruction for at least three hours per day (between the hours of 8am & 4pm) for 140 days per year. Tutors are required to file an education plan with the county superintendent, keep a register of each student’s work including hours completed and attendance, as well as provide reports to the student’s local Board of Education and the Alabama State Board of Education (ALSDE). All requirements must be followed thoroughly according to ALSDE standards for the student to remain in compliance with Alabama law.
ALABAMA STATE LAWS CONCERNING CHURCH SCHOOL REGULATION
Teacher Qualifications: No qualifications are required to teach in a church or private school.
A private tutor must be a state-certified teacher. Ala. Code § 16-28-5.
Standardized Tests: Not required by Alabama statute.
Freedom from State Regulation: “Nonpublic schools, including private, church, parochial, and religious schools, offering educational instruction in grades K-12, as well as home-schooled students, are not subject to licensure or regulation by the state or any political subdivision of the state, including the State Department of Education.” Sec. 2(b), Act 2014-245.
College Anti-Discrimination Provisions: “Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, no public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state may deny admission to or otherwise discriminate against an otherwise qualified student based on the consideration, whether in whole or in part, that the student attended, graduated from, or is enrolled in a nonpublic school, including private, church, parochial, and religious schools, or was home schooled.” Sec. 6, Act 2014-245.
Religious Freedom Act: Alabama Constitutional Amendment No. 622
The Religious Freedom Restoration Amendment (RFRA) gives religious home educators another legal means to protect their right to home school. If the parents’ free exercise of religion is substantially burdened by having to comply with the homeschool law, the parents may use the RFRA as a defense or file suit against the state. Under this statute, the burden is on the state to prove that its requirement “furthers a compelling state interest” and is the “least restrictive means” of fulfilling its interest that children be educated. This Act restores the highest protection of the individual’s right to freely exercise his religious beliefs taken away by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1997 City of Boerne decision. 521 U.S. 507
This link contains the full text of Alabama SB 38: http://openbama.org/bill/9156/text
HSLDA’s summary of Alabama Homeschool Law can be read here: https://www.hslda.org/hs101/AL.aspx?utm_source=HSLDA%20email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter
PUBLIC SCHOOL INCLUSION IN SPORTS
Alabama homeschoolers are allowed to participate in public school sports:
In 2016, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) amended its bylaws to allow homeschool students and other “non-traditional students” to participate in interscholastic athletics with public schools.
The following pdf is from AHSAA concerning homeschool participation in public school sports as of 4/2016 –
There are numerous requirements for homeschool participation in public school sports. These requirements are subject to change as AHSAA deems it necessary. Therefore, we recommend homeschool families contact personnel at their local school for clarification as they consider this option for their child(ren).
PLEASE NOTE: Children enrolled in virtual school, charter school, public on-line school, or a public school independent study are not considered to be “homeschooled.” The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) defines homeschoolers as students whose education is primarily administered and controlled by parents privately. Enrollment in secular programs is enrollment in public school, which gives the public school authority over the student to impose state assessment, approval of curriculum, and supervision by a certified teacher. HSLDA membership and legal protection extends to traditional homeschoolers only.