The Fine Print: Private School Enrollment Contracts

school building

Back-to-school time is barreling down the track. Parents are finalizing plans, choosing school supplies, and for those sending their children to private school, signing enrollment agreements. Yes, we’re talking about those contracts filled with the fine print that no one likes (except attorneys, of course!).

A parent called our ministry recently saying that she had removed her child from a private school last December, but the school was just now pursuing her for the remainder of the year’s tuition. “Are they allowed to do that?” she asked.

Our answer: “It depends.” Typical attorneys.

Attending a Christian school involves a balance between rights and responsibilities for parents and their children. When you enroll your child in a Christian or other private school, it is vitally important to carefully read the enrollment agreement. The fine print matters…and in most cases, if the agreement refers to the point in question, the agreement’s terms will govern and determine the parents’ and children’s responsibilities.

A thorough enrollment agreement will encompass these issues:

  • Tuition and payment: addressing the costs, options, and process of paying tuition, as well as consequences for nonpayment or late payment.
  • Withdrawal: addressing grounds for voluntary withdrawal or involuntary dismissal and the parties’ obligations arising therefrom. Yes, parents may be contractually liable to pay the remaining tuition for the year even after withdrawing their child.
  • Conduct and compliance: addressing the grounds for involuntary dismissal for student (and sometimes parent) misconduct or other failure to comply with school requirements. Typically, such provisions bind the student and parents to comply with existing school policies and procedures.
  • Indemnification: addressing the parents’ responsibility for damages caused by student behavior or misbehavior or by parental noncompliance.
  • Other clauses that may also be included might address the following:

    • Requirement and proof of student health insurance coverage
    • Immunization and medical certifications
    • Damages in case of early withdrawal, including attorney fees and related costs of pursuing legal remedies
    • Grievance, arbitration, or mediation requirements (binding or non-binding) to eliminate or delay formal litigation
    • Waiver of liability provisions, including general waiver of liability except for willful misconduct or gross negligence or for injury arising from field trips, athletics, or other circumstances
    • Of course, all of the above provisions are subject to any special laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which the school exists, as well as each school’s special needs.

      At the National Center for Life and Liberty, we represent many private schools across America and help them draft policies and procedures to protect the school as well as the parents. Oftentimes, simple steps and properly-informed parties can reduce or eliminate costly and time-consuming contract disputes.