Montana Laws and Regulations

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An overview of the homeschool laws and regulations of Montana, along with links to legislative source information, additional reference materials and government resources on homeschooling.

Montana State Legislature

20-5-402. Definitions. As used in this part, the following definitions apply

  1. “Department” means the department of public health and human services provided for in 2-15-2201.
  2. “Governing authority” means the board of trustees of a school district or the administrator of a private school, preschool, or postsecondary school.
  3. “Immunization” means induction of a state of resistance to a disease through administration of an immunizing agent.
  4. “Local health department” means a city, city-county, county, or district health department.
  5. “Local health officer” means a city, city-county, county, or district health officer.
  6. “Postsecondary school” means a community college, a unit of the Montana university system, or a private university or college.
  7. “Preschool” means a place or facility that provides, on a regular basis and as its primary purpose, educational instruction designed for children 5 years of age or younger and that: (a) serves no child under 5 years of age for more than 3 hours a day; and (b) serves no child 5 years of age for more than 6 hours a day.
  8. “School” means a place or institution for the teaching of individuals, the curriculum of which is composed of the work of: (a) any combination of kindergarten through grade 12; (b) a postsecondary school; or (c) a preschool.

History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 147, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 644, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 12, Ch. 308, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 47, Ch. 418, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 66, Ch. 546, L. 1995.

Find Montana’s complete state education code under the link at that page for Title 20 – Education. You may access individual chapters, parts, and sections, by clicking on the plus signs to the left of the links. The links for individual chapters, parts, and sections will then appear. For example, to view section 20-5-111, click on the plus sign next to Title 20 Education, then click on the plus sign next to Chapter 5 Pupils, then click on the plus sign next to Part 1 Attendance, then click on the link for 20-5-111, Responsibilities and rights of parent who provides home school — rights of child in home school.

The first sections of importance to homeschoolers, 20-5-102 and 20-5-103, cover compulsory enrollment and attendance. If your child is 7 years old as of the first day of school, and has not yet turned 16 and completed the work of the 8th grade, then to homeschool, you will need to establish exemption from these two provisions, in accordance with 20-5-102(2)(e) and 20-5-103(2)(a). These sections read as follows:

20-5-102. Compulsory enrollment and excuses.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), any parent, guardian, or other person who is responsible for the care of any child who is 7 years of age or older prior to the first day of school in any school fiscal year shall cause the child to be instructed in the program prescribed by the board of public education pursuant to 20-7-111 until the later of the following dates:

(a) the child’s 16th birthday;

(b) the date of completion of the work of the 8th grade.

(2) A parent, guardian, or other person shall enroll the child in the school assigned by the trustees of the district within the first week of the school term or when he establishes residence in the district unless the child is:

(a) enrolled in a school of another district or state under any of the tuition provisions of this title;

(b) provided with supervised correspondence study or supervised home study under the transportation provisions of this title;

(c) excused from compulsory school attendance upon a determination by a district judge that attendance is not in the best interest of the child;

(d) excused by the board of trustees upon a determination that attendance by a child who has attained the age of 16 is not in the best interest of the child and the school; or (e) enrolled in a nonpublic or home school that complies with the provisions of 20-5-109. For the purposes of this subsection (e), a home school is the instruction by a parent of his child, stepchild, or ward in his residence and a nonpublic school includes a parochial, church, religious, or private school.

History: En. 75-6303 by Sec. 116, Ch. 5, L. 1971; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 389, L. 1971; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 91, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 137, L. 1975; R.C.M. 1947, 75-6303; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 504, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 355, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 249, L. 1991.

20-5-103. Compulsory attendance and excuses.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), any parent, guardian, or other person who is responsible for the care of any child who is 7 years of age or older prior to the first day of school in any school fiscal year shall cause the child to attend the school in which he is enrolled for the school term and each school day therein prescribed by the trustees of the district until the later of the following dates:

(a) the child’s 16th birthday;

(b) the date of completion of the work of the 8th grade.

(2) The provisions of subsection (1) do not apply in the following cases:

(a) The child has been excused under The conditions specified in 20-5-102.

(b) The child is absent because of illness, bereavement, or other reason prescribed by the policies of the trustees.

(c) The child has been suspended or expelled under the provisions of 20-5-202.

History: En. 75-6304 by Sec. 117, Ch. 5, L. 1971; amd. Sec. 8, Ch. 266, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 75-6304; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 504, L. 1979.

20-5-111. Responsibilities and rights of parent who provides home school — rights of child in home school.

Subject to the provisions of 20-5-109, a parent has the authority to instruct his child, stepchild, or ward in a home school and is solely responsible for:

(1) the educational philosophy of the home school;

(2) the selection of instructional materials, curriculum, and textbooks;

(3) the time, place, and method of instruction; and

(4) the evaluation of the home school instruction.

History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 444, L. 1991.

20-5-109. Nonpublic school requirements for compulsory enrollment exemption.

To qualify its students for exemption from compulsory enrollment under 20-5-102, a nonpublic or home school shall:

(1) maintain records on pupil attendance and disease immunization and make the records available to the county superintendent of schools on request;

(2) provide at least 180 days of pupil instruction or the equivalent in accordance with 20-1-301 and 20-1-302;

(3) be housed in a building that complies with applicable local health and safety regulations;

(4) provide an organized course of study that includes instruction in the subjects required of public schools as a basic instructional program pursuant to 20-7-111; and

(5) in the case of home schools, notify the county superintendent of schools, of the county in which the home school is located, in each school fiscal year of the student’s attendance at the school.

History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 355, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 498, L. 1989.

The following section specifies that the school district must have in place a policy on assessment for placement of homeschooled children who return to school; note that the policy must include considerations for the age and identified abilities of the child. 20-5-110. School district assessment for placement of a child who enrolls from a nonaccredited, nonpublic school.

The trustees of a school district shall:

(1) adopt a district policy on assessment for placement of any child who enrolls in a school of the district and whose previous place of instruction was a nonpublic school that is not accredited;

(2) include in the adopted policy the following provisions: (a) the specific assessment for placement to be administered to any child subject to the provisions of subsection (1); (b) a procedure for grade and program placement of the child based on results of the assessment for placement, including considerations for the age and identified abilities of the child; and (c) a hearing process before the board of trustees of the district if the parent or guardian of a child is not in agreement with the placement of the child and requests a hearing before the board; and

(3) administer the adopted policy required in subsection (1) in a uniform and fair manner.

History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 498, L. 1989.

20-5-403. Immunization required — release and acceptance of immunization records.

  • The governing authority of any school other than a postsecondary school may not allow any person to commence attendance as a pupil unless the person:
  • has been immunized against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, rubella, mumps, and measles (rubeola) in the manner and with immunizing agents approved by the department, except that pertussis vaccination is not required for a person 7 years of age or older;
  • has been immunized against Haemophilus influenza type “b” before enrolling in a preschool if under 5 years of age;
  • qualifies for conditional attendance; or
  • files for an exemption.

(2)

  • The governing authority of a postsecondary school may not allow any person to commence attendance as a pupil unless the person: 9i) has been immunized against rubella and measles (rubeola) in the manner and with immunizing agents approved by the department; or (ii) files for an exemption.
  • The governing authority of a postsecondary school may impose immunization requirements as a condition of attendance that are more stringent than those required by this part.(3) A pupil who transfers from one school district to another may photocopy immunization records in the possession of the school of origin. The school district to which a pupil transfers shall accept the photocopy as evidence of immunization. Within 30 days after a transferring pupil ceases attendance at the school of origin, the school shall send the original immunization records for the pupil to the school district to which the pupil transfers.

    History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 147, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 509, L. 1981; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 102, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 644, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 165, L. 1991.

    20-5-404. Conditional attendance. The governing authority of a school other than a postsecondary school may allow the commencement of attendance in school by a person who has not been immunized against each disease listed in 20-5-403 if that person has received one or more doses of polio, measles (rubeola), mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, Haemophilus influenza type “b”, and tetanus vaccine, except that pertussis vaccine is not required for a person 7 years of age or older and Haemophilus influenza type “b” vaccine is required only for children under 5 years of age.

    History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 147, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 102, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 644, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 165, L. 1991.

    20-5-405. Medical or religious exemption.

    (1) When a parent, guardian, or adult who has the responsibility for the care and custody of a minor seeking to attend school or the person seeking to attend school, if an adult, signs and files with the governing authority, prior to the commencement of attendance each school year, a notarized affidavit on a form prescribed by the department stating that immunization is contrary to the religious tenets and practices of the signer, immunization of the person seeking to attend the school may not be required prior to attendance at the school. The statement must be maintained as part of the person’s immunization records. A person who falsely claims a religious exemption is subject to the penalty for false swearing provided in 45-7-202.

    (2) When a parent, guardian, or adult who has the responsibility for the care and custody of a minor seeking to attend school, or the person seeking to attend school, if an adult, files with the governing authority a written statement signed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in any jurisdiction of the United States or Canada stating that the physical condition of the person seeking to attend school or medical circumstances relating to him indicate that some or all of the required immunizations are not considered safe and indicating the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances which contraindicate immunization, he is exempt from the requirements of this part to the extent indicated by the physician’s statement. The statement must be maintained as part of the person’s immunization records.

    (3) Whenever there is good cause to believe that a person for whom an exemption has been filed under this section has a disease or has been exposed to a disease listed in 20-5-403 or will as the result of school attendance be exposed to such disease, the person may be excluded from the school by the local health officer or the department until the excluding authority is satisfied that the person no longer risks contracting or transmitting that disease.

    History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 147, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 102, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 644, L. 1989.

    20-5-406. Immunization record. The governing authority of each school shall require written evidence of each pupil’s immunization against the diseases listed in 20-5-403 and shall record the immunization of each pupil as part of his permanent school record on a form prescribed by the department.

    History: En. Sec. 5, Ch. 147, L. 1979.

    20-5-407. Rulemaking. The department may adopt rules necessary to implement the provisions of this part.

    History: En. Sec. 6, Ch. 147, L. 1979.

    20-5-408. Enforcement.

    (1) The governing authority of any school other than a postsecondary school shall prohibit from further attendance any pupil allowed to attend conditionally who has failed to obtain the immunizations required by 20-5-403(1) within time periods established by the department until that pupil has been immunized as required by the department or unless that pupil has been exempted under 20-5-405.

    (2) Each governing authority shall file a written report on the immunization status of all pupils under its jurisdiction with the department and the local health department at times and on forms prescribed by the department.

    (3) The local and state health departments shall have access to all information relating to immunization of any pupil in any school.

    History: En. Sec. 7, Ch. 147, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 102, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 644, L. 1989.

    20-5-409. Failure to immunize or claim exemption — injunction.

    (1) A parent, guardian, or adult having the responsibility for the care and custody of a minor required by law to attend school shall elect to do The following:

    (a) present evidence to the school that the minor has been immunized against the diseases specified in 20-5-403;

    (b) take action to fully immunize the minor against the diseases listed in 20-5-403, in the manner and with immunizing agents approved by the department;

    (c) file for an exemption pursuant to 20-5-405.

    (2) If, as a result of the parent, guardian, or responsible adult’s failure to make the election referred to in subsection (1), the minor is excluded from school, the department or the local health department may seek an injunction requiring the parent, guardian, or responsible adult to elect and perform The alternatives listed in subsection (1).

    (3) Injunction is the exclusive remedy for failure to take any of the actions referred to in subsection (1).

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