Although charter schools are exempt from many state and local laws and regulations relating to public schools, there are a number of such rules that do apply. These include, for example, laws relating to civil rights (nondiscrimination), students with disabilities, health and safety, pupil dismissal, school finance, tort liability, public meetings, and educational data. Most of the statutes and regulations with which charter schools must comply are listed under subdivision 8 of the charter law (“State and local requirements”), although some provisions are set forth in other subdivisions. In addition, charter schools must comply with all federal laws relating to public schools and various federal laws applicable to public entities and/or those that receive federal funds.
As part of the charter application, you will be asked to provide assurances that your school will comply with these statutes and regulations. It is critical that you carefully read the charter school law, so you understand the provisions that apply to your school.
The law states as follows:
Public Status; exemption from statutes and rules.
A charter school is a public school and is part of the state’s system of public education. Except as provided in this section, a charter school is exempt from all statutes and rules applicable to a school, a board, or a district, although it may elect to comply with one or more provisions of statutes or rules. Minn. Statutes 124D.10 (subd 7)
State and local requirements.
- A charter school shall meet all applicable state and local health and safety requirements.
- A charter school must be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices,
- A charter school may not charge tuition.
- A charter school is subject to and must comply with chapter 363A [Minnesota Human Rights Act-nondiscrimination in employment and services] and section 121A.04 [equal opportunity for both genders to participate in athletic activities].
- A charter school is subject to and must comply with the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, sections 121A.40 to 121A.56, and the Minnesota Public Fee Law, sections 123B.34 to 123B.39.
- A charter school is subject to the same financial audits, audit procedures, and audit requirements as a district.
- A charter school is a district for the purposes of tort liability under chapter 466.
- A charter school must comply with sections 13.32; 120A.22, subdivision 7; 121A.75′ and 260B.171, subdivisions 3 and 5 [relating to Educational Data].
- A charter school is subject to the Pledge of Allegiance requirement under section 121A.11, subdivision 3.
Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 8 (parentheses added)
Pupils with a disability. A charter school must comply with sections 125A.02, 125A.03 to 125A.24, and 125A.65 and rules relating to the education of pupils with a disability as though it were a district (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 12)
Formation of school. Board of director meetings must comply with chapter 13D [Open Meeting Law] (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 4c).
Annual public reports. A charter school must report at least annually to its sponsor and the commissioner the information required by the sponsor or the commissioner. The reports are public data under Chapter 13 [Minnesota Government Data Practices Act] (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 14)
Civil Rights; Non-Discrimination
Like other public schools, Minnesota charter schools are required to comply with all federal and state civil rights laws regarding nondiscrimination. These laws apply both to services provided to students (including students with disabilities) and employment practices. Minnesota law prohibits charter schools from discriminating on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation or age. Minn. Stats Chapter 363A. Minnesota law also requires charter schools to provide for equal opportunity for both genders to participate in athletic activities. Minn. Statutes 121A.04.
Federal laws prohibiting discrimination on these grounds include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits discrimination under federally funded programs), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits discrimination in employment, where organization has 15 or more employees), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibits discrimination based on sex under federally funded programs) and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (prohibits discrimination based on age). For more information on the implications of these laws for charter schools, see “Applying Federal Civil Rights Laws to Public Charter Schools,” U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2000 ( dssc.org/frc/fed/ocr_charter.htm).
Persons with Disabilities; Special Education
Charter schools must comply with federal and state laws prohibiting schools from discriminating against employees or students on the basis of a disability, including those related to providing special education and related services to students with disabilities. Most Minnesota charter schools operate as their own districts, and, as such, are responsible for educating their students with disabilities. Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 12.
Federal laws governing students and other persons with disabilities include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments and agencies, regardless of federal funding), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (which provides federal funding to support the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities).
More information about charter schools and special education can be found in a separate section of this handbook. See also, “Charter Schools and the Education of Children with Disabilities,” published by the Charter Friends National Network. (charterfriends.org/specialed.pdf)
Other Public School Laws Relating to Charter Schools
- The Pupil Fair Dismissal Act (Minn. Statutes 121A.40-56). This law outlines a school’s responsibilities regarding student dismissal (exclusion, suspension and expulsion). This law includes additional protections for students with disabilities. The law further addresses Minnesota rules governing the use of discipline procedures. The Act prohibits corporal punishment upon a pupil that includes hitting or spanking or unreasonable force that causes bodily harm or substantial emotional harm. A charter school is required to have a written discipline policy that has been communicated to the school’s staff, parents and students and is subject to annual review. [The Minnesota School Boards Association policy manual provides guidance in this area.]
- The Public School Fee Law (Minn. Statutes 123B.34-39). This law recognizes that public education is free and prohibits a charter school from charging fees for the cost of participating in required activities of the school. The law does allow schools to charge fees for certain extra curricular or supplementary activities. The law identifies those goods, services and activities for which schools may or may not charge fees.
- Financial Operations. A charter school is subject to the same financial audits, audit procedures, and audit requirements as a district. The law requires charter schools to follow the same rules for financial reporting as district public schools, including compliance with the UFARS (uniform financial accounting and reporting standards) system. (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd 8(i))
- Assumption of Tort Liability. Like other public school districts, charter schools are required to assume tort liability, and obtain insurance, in accordance with Minn. Statutes Chapter 466. (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd (8j))
- Open and Transparent Operations. As public schools, charter schools must operate in an open and transparent fashion. For example, charter boards should understand that director meetings must comply with the provisions of the Open Meeting Law (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 4c; Chap. 13D), and that the school’s annual financial and programmatic reports are public documents (Minn. Statutes 124D.10, subd. 14; Chap. 13).
- Sexual, religious and racial harassment and violence policy requirements. Charter schools are subject to federal and state laws on harassment and discrimination. Every Minnesota public school is required to adopt a written sexual, religious and racial harassment and violence policy and submit it to the Commissioner of Education. The policy shall apply to students and all school personnel (including independent contractors); include reporting procedures and set forth disciplinary actions that will be taken for violation of the policy. The policy must be conspicuously posted throughout each school building, given to each employee and independent contractor at the time of entering into an employment contract and included in the student handbook. The school must develop a process for discussing the policy with students and employees. MDE and the Minnesota School Boards Association may have model policies available.
“Applying Federal Civil Rights Laws to Public Charter Schools,” U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2000 (dssc.org/frc/fed/ocr_charter.htm).
Age Discrimination. For details on the rules and regulations relating to age discrimination, contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
“Charter Schools and the Education of Children with Disabilities,” Charter Friends National Network, 2d Edition, 2001 (charterfriends.org/specialed.pdf)
Minnesota Charter Schools Special Education Project
Cori Wahl, Project Director
1295 Bandana Blvd., Ste. 240
St. Paul, MN 55108
4826 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55417-1098
Advocacy, materials and training on issues relating to disability and legal protections for learners and their families.
Minnesota Department of Education
Special Education Compliance