Catholic School Disciplinary Violations

There may be many factors that influence a parent's decision to enroll their child at a Catholic private school. For some, the desire for a Catholic education supersedes all other considerations. For others, the promise of smaller class sizes with favorable student-to-teacher ratios is a priority. Some Catholic private schools offer a varied course curriculum with increased academic electives, and some private schools may provide their students with numerous extracurricular activities and assorted team sports.

But there are other important aspects of attending a Catholic private school that many parents—and their student child—may overlook. And these elements pertain to student rights, the parent and student handbook, codes of conduct, and disciplinary policies.

Catholic Church: The World's Largest Non-Governmental Provider of Education

The Catholic Church is the world’s largest non-governmental provider of education, consisting of more than 43,800 secondary schools and more than 95,000 primary schools. The Catholic Church has also established numerous universities in the United States and worldwide. Catholic private schools offer religious education along with secular subjects, and are open to students of all faiths and backgrounds.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic education in the United States dates as far back as at least 1606, with the Catholic faith in the United States first spreading through the work of missionaries in the 1600s.

With the rise of Catholic immigration in the United States in the mid-1800s came a growing interest in the need for Catholic education in the country. Catholics in the United States opened their own schools with support from various religious orders, and these schools served the growing Catholic immigrant communities.

Catholic universities were founded at this time, including Fordham University, which was founded in New York City in 1841, the University of Notre Dame, founded in Indiana in 1842, and the Catholic University of America, founded in Washington in 1887.

More recently, Catholic private schools have been hit hard financially. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 left Catholic schools nationwide struggling to keep the doors open, according to The Wall Street Journal. Financial losses incurred during the pandemic left many families of Catholic private school students unable to pay their tuition bills, and churches do not have the extra funds needed to cover the budget gap.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, at least 209 of the country's nearly 6,000 Catholic schools have closed over the past year, with more closures expected this summer. Nationwide, Catholic school enrollment fell 6.4% at the beginning of the 2021 school year, the largest single-year decline since the 1970s when data collection on enrollment began. Dioceses in urban areas have seen the greatest drop in enrollment. In Catholic private schools run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, enrollment was down 12% at the start of the 2021 school year. Enrollment in Catholic private schools in the Archdiocese of New York was down 11% at the beginning of the 2021 school year.

Catholic Private Schools vs. Public Schools

The decision regarding where to send one's child to school weighs heavily on many parents. School vouchers, education tax credits, scholarships, and other financial assistance have provided many families with broader educational opportunities beyond the public school.

There are a variety of reasons why parents may choose to send their student child to a Catholic private school. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Education Institute for Education Policy, one of those reasons is because many parents believe that their children will receive a stronger academic education at a Catholic private school than at a public school.

In their report, Is the “Catholic School Effect” Real? New Research Challenges the Catholic Primary School Advantage, the Institute found that while children at Catholic primary schools may achieve higher test scores, on average, than those of their peers who attend public schools, the main question is whether a higher test score is a result of the so-called “school effect.” This “school effect” refers to independent factors that are either intrinsic to the schools themselves, or are related to parent education, parent income, and the school selection process itself. The report indicates that separating these factors is a difficult task.

Differences Between Private Catholic Schools and Public Schools

The obvious difference between Catholic private schools and public schools is that Catholic schools offer a religious education in addition to the secular—non religious—subjects that are offered at public schools. But there are other differences as well which have a significant impact on the education and student experience at a Catholic private school. And it comes down to money.

Public schools receive funding from the education departments of their state and local governments. Taxpayer money funds public schools and, as such, public schools have to answer to state and local governments. The regulations of a public school must comply with the regulations of the state and local governments that are funding them.

Catholic private schools, on the other hand, do not receive the same level of funding from the state. To pay for the cost of running the Catholic private school and paying for the teachers' salaries, Catholic private schools charge tuition. The difference in funding between public schools and Catholic private schools has a more far-reaching impact than merely how things are paid for.

Because Catholic private schools are not funded by the state and local governments, Catholic private schools do not need to comply with state and local government regulations nor do they have to offer the same due process that is afforded students at public schools. Catholic private schools are not required to provide the same protections for individual student rights. To some degree, Catholic private schools can make their own rules because they are private institutions.

Students' Rights at Catholic Private Schools

Most students—and their parents—do not give much thought to the rights of a student at school. There is an assumption that all students have the same basic rights and protections under the law, regardless of what school they are enrolled in. But this is not the case. Students at private schools are not afforded the same rights as students at public schools. This is an important distinction, and it can affect a student's life well beyond their time at the school.

Students at Catholic private schools are not guaranteed the right to defend themselves against any charges brought against them, and they may not be afforded an appeals process. Catholic private school students may not have the opportunity to participate in a formal hearing regarding the evidence brought against them. In fact, the Catholic private school may not even conduct an investigation into the