PR 07905.028 Missouri

A. PR 11-072 Qualification of Buckhorn Baptist Academy as an Educational Institution – State of Missouri

DATE: December 9, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

The Buckhorn Baptist Academy of Marquand, Missouri, provides secondary education in accordance with Missouri law. It is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

Issues Presented:

You requested a legal opinion regarding whether Buckhorn Baptist Academy (Buckhorn), of Marquand, Missouri, is an “educational institution” within the meaning of section of section 202(d)(7) of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7). 

Based on the information you have provided about Buckhorn, we conclude that it does qualify as an educational institution.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The beneficiary in this case is Larry B~, who was entitled to child’s benefits until August 20, 2010, when he turned 18.  Larry completed a form SSA-1372, where he stated he was enrolled at Buckhorn last year, from August 2009 until May 14, 2010. The form also indicates he is currently enrolled at the school, with an expected graduation date of May 2011.  He stated on the form that he is scheduled to attend 24 hours of schooling per week and that he is not paid by an employer to attend school. 

We contacted John S~, the “school administrator” of Buckhorn, on November 29, 2010.  He explained that Buckhorn is a non-residential Christian school, with a curriculum intended to result in a high school diploma. The school educates 15 students in grades ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade, including 3 graduating seniors.  Three non-certified instructors teach a variety of subjects including history, math, science, and bible, among others. The curriculum is obtained from Bob J~ University Press in Greenville, South Carolina. See BJU Press, http://www.bjupress.com (visited November 29, 2010). Mr. S~ indicated that Buckhorn is currently in its fourth year. 

Analysis

Section 202(d) of the Act provides that child’s insurance benefits usually terminate when the child attains age 18. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(6) and (7). Entitlement to child’s benefits may continue, however, if (among other things) the child “was a full-time elementary or secondary student and had not attained the age of 19.” 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A full-time elementary or secondary student is defined as “an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the [Commissioner] (in accordance with regulations prescribed by him) in the light of the standards and practices of the schools involved. . . .” Id. at § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined as “a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Id. at § 402(d)(7)(C)(i).  Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least 20 hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (2010).

The Missouri statutes have few provisions relevant to private schools in general or to religiously-based private schools in particular. Missouri’s compulsory school attendance provisions provide only that “[e]very parent, guardian or other person in this state having charge, control or custody of a child between the ages of seven and sixteen years shall cause the child to attend regularly some public, private, parochial, parish, home school or a combination of such schools not less than the entire school term of the school which the child attends. . .” Mo. Ann. Stat. § 167.031.1. The statute does not dictate any curriculum to be followed in a non-public school. 

In fact, other than some minimal subject requirements for home schools, the statue specifically states that “all departments or agencies of the state of Missouri shall be prohibited from dictating through rule, regulation or other device any statewide curriculum for private, parochial, parish or home schools.” Id. at § 167.031.3. Additionally, the provisions of the Missouri Constitution declaring that there shall be a separation of church and state “are not only more explicit but more restrictive” than the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. See Paster v. Tussey, 512 S.W.2d 97, 101-02 (Mo. 1974); see also Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239, 246 (Mo. banc 1997) (quoting the language in Paster regarding Missouri’s restrictive separation of church and state). The Paster court stated, “individuals, as such, do act and live with a sectarian purpose in the area of education-an objective which the people of Missouri, speaking through their constitution, have protected fully but also have declared to be one personal to the individual.”  Id. at 105.  In addition to exercising no control over the curriculum of non-public schools, Missouri statutes do not require that non-public schools be licensed or accredited in the state of Missouri. See Mo. Ann. Stat. § 161.092 (granting the State board of education the power to classify the public schools of the state and formulate rules governing the inspection and accreditation of the schools). Teachers in non-public schools are not required to hold a state teaching certificate. See Mo. Ann. Stat. § 168.011.1 (regarding certification requirements for public school teachers).

Conclusion:

In conclusion, because Missouri’s compulsory school attendance law may be complied with by attendance at a private, parochial, or parish school, we conclude that Buckhorn does provide secondary education under the laws of the state of Missouri. The lack of approval or accreditation of the school does not detract from our conclusion. Although the teachers at Buckhorn are not certified, certification is not required under Missouri law. Moreover, according to Mr. S~, a student in full-time attendance at Buckhorn will attend school 26 hours per week and Larry indicated on his form that he attended school 24 hours per week. This meets the regulatory requirement of at least 20 hours attendance per week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c).

Kristi A. S~
Chief Counsel, Region VII

By____________
Sarah P~
Assistant Regional Counsel

B. PR 08-103 Status of Lighthouse Christian Academy, Piedmont, Missouri as an Educational Institution

DATE: April 22, 2008

1. SYLLABUS

The Lighthouse Christian Academy in Piedmont, Missouri, provides secondary education under Missouri law and, therefore, is an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have requested a legal opinion regarding whether Lighthouse Christian Academy, of Piedmont, Missouri, is an "educational institution" within the meaning of section 202(d)(7) of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7). Based on the information you have provided about Lighthouse, we conclude that it qualifies as an educational institution.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The beneficiary in this case is Shelby D~, who was entitled to child's benefits until February 2008, when she turned 18. Shelby completed a form SSA-1372, where she stated she was enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy last year, from January 1, 2007 until December 31, 2007. The form also indicates she is currently enrolled at the school, with an expected graduation date of October 2008. She is scheduled to attend 35 hours of schooling per week.

You contacted Larry M~, the "president" of the school. He explained that Lighthouse was a residential Christian school and private college preparatory school. Its curriculum is intended to result in a high school diploma, and students are "tested for academic placement." He also told you that the school had been operating in Tennessee for several years, and provided you with the school's website address, http://www.abmministries.org. The school website states that it is based on a program called Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Students complete "workbooks" in various academic and religion subjects, with testing as each workbook is completed. See ABM Ministries, Inc., Academics, http://www.abmministries.org/

programd3.shtml (visited April 11, 2008). The website also contains a daily schedule showing set times for classes such as Bible, Math, and English. Id. at http://www.abmministries.org/programd4.shtml.

Analysis

Section 202(d) of the Act provides that child's insurance benefits usually terminate when the child attains age 18. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(6) and (7). Entitlement to child's benefits may continue, however, if (among other things) the child "was a full-time elementary or secondary student and had not attained the age of 19." 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A full-time elementary or secondary student is defined as "an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the [Commissioner] (in accordance with regulations prescribed by him) in the light of the standards and practices of the schools involved. . . ." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined as "a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least twenty hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (2007).

The Missouri statutes have few provisions relevant to private schools in general or to religiously-based private schools in particular. Missouri's compulsory school attendance provisions provide only that "[e]very parent, guardian or other person in this state having charge, control or custody of a child between the ages of seven and sixteen years shall cause the child to attend regularly some public, private, parochial, parish, home school or a combination of such schools not less than the entire school term of the school which the child attends. . ." Mo. Ann. Stat. § 167.031.1. The statute does not dictate any curriculum to be followed in a non-public school.

In fact, other than some minimal subject requirements for home schools, the statue specifically states "all departments or agencies of the state of Missouri shall be prohibited from dictating through rule, regulation or other device any statewide curriculum for private, parochial, parish or home schools." Id. at § 167.031.3. Additionally, the provisions of the Missouri Constitution declaring that there shall be a separation of church and state are not only more explicit, but are more restrictive than the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. See Paster v. Tussey, 512 S.W.2d 97, 101-02 (Mo. 1974). The Paster court stated, "individuals, as such, do act and live with a sectarian purpose in the area of education-an objective which the people of Missouri, speaking through their constitution, have protected fully but also have declared to be one personal to the individual." Id. at 105. In addition to exercising no control over the curriculum of non-public schools, Missouri statutes do not require that non-public schools be licensed or accredited in the state of Missouri. Teachers in non-public schools are not required to hold a state teaching certificate.

In conclusion, because Missouri's compulsory school attendance law may be complied with by attendance at a private, parochial, or parish school, we conclude that Lighthouse Christian Academy does provide secondary education under the law of the state of Missouri. Because of Missouri's statutes, accreditation is not relevant. Moreover, according to your information, Shelby is scheduled to take 35 hours of classes per week. This meets the regulatory requirement of at least 20 hours attendance per week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (2007

Kristi A. S~
Acting Chief Counsel, Region VII

By
Kevin B. M~
Assistant Regional Counsel

C. PR 05-030 Status of Ombudsman Learning Center as an Educational Institution. Jessica A~ (SSN: ~), (Wage earner Robert L. A~, SSN: ~)

DATE: November 4, 2004

1. SYLLABUS

The Ombudsman Learning Center (OLC) provides secondary education under Missouri law; therefore, OLC is an educational institution for SSA purposes

2. OPINION

You requested our advice concerning an individual's entitlement to child's insurance benefits following her 18th birthday. To answer this question, we were required to assess whether the individual's coursework through Ombudsman Learning Center entitled her to benefits pursuant to section 202(d) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(d). Our response was delayed because further development was required in order for us to fully answer your question. Based on the facts of this case, it is reasonable to conclude that Jessica is entitled to child's benefits as a full-time secondary school student until May 18, 2004, her last date of full-time attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The materials you provided indicate that Jessica A~ applied for child's insurance benefits beyond age 18 based on her attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center. Jessica was born on December 31, 1985. She turned 18 years old on December 31, 2003. In a Student's Statement Regarding School Attendance dated July 8, 2004, Jessica indicated that she attended Ombudsman Learning Center from September 1, 2003, through May 18, 2004. On August 24, 2004, Dr. Perry H~, Director of Alternative Education for the North Kansas City Missouri School District, signed the statement and verified that the information Jessica provided was correct.

On August 2, 2004, an employee of the Gladstone, Missouri Field Office spoke with Dr. H~. Dr. H~ stated that the Ombudsman Learning Center is a private school of a non-religious setting that offers all of the basic high school subjects. The students attending there are considered as "enrolled" in the North Kansas City School District. The students are counted in the North Kansas City School District's pupil numbers and attendance for state funding purposes. The North Kansas City School District pays the tuition for the student, and the student must be enrolled "full-time."

Ombudsman Learning Center offers three separate three-hour daily sessions, five days a week. The student attends these three-hour sessions at the school. In addition to attending 15 hours in class per week, each student must participate in at least 15 additional hours per week in "outside" approved activities such as employment, volunteer work, etc. The "outside" activity must be verified by Ombudsman. For example, if the "outside" activity is work, then a pay stub or a work schedule has to be submitted to the school for verification.

Each student has a "home school" within the North Kansas City School District. In this case, Jessica A~ home school was Winnetonka High School. The Ombudsman Learning Center keeps a record of Jessica's attendance, and they submit the attendance records to the North Kansas City School District which also keeps a record. The student's transcript contains only the classroom hours, but the Ombudsman Learning Center must also certify to the North Kansas City School District that the student met his or her 15 hours a week of "outside" activity.

On October 20, 2004, Roseann P~, Manager of Student Records for Ombudsman Learning Center, provided verification that Jessica completed 407 of the 435 hours of "outside" activity required. Based on this data, Jessica completed 93.6 percent of the hours of "outside" activity required or 14.04 hours of "outside" activity per week. In a letter accompanying the report of "outside" activities, Ms. P~ stated

Additional hours can be achieved through a variety of ways, and will only be accepted if the activity provides learning enrichment and life skills development for the student. Documentation of the activity with parent signatures and/or a report must be provided to the center director. Examples of such activities include:

  • Community service or volunteer work

  • Career shadowing

  • Attending cultural events

  • Viewing a documentary pertaining to history or science

  • Visiting local government agencies

  • Music lessons

At the end of the school year our staff is required to retain the log of the student's additional hours but not the documentation of the specific activity.

On October 22, 2004, we spoke with Patrick K~, Director of the Ombudsman Learning Center, regarding Jessica's "outside" activities. Mr. K~ stated that Jessica participated in a variety of "outside" activities, including community service projects and other educational activities. On October 29, 2004, we again spoke with Mr. K~ for clarification as to why Jessica received a diploma when she did not complete all of the hours of "outside" activity required by the program. Mr. K~ stated that, if a student completes 89 to 99 percent of a requirement, they are deemed to have mastered the requirement. Because Jessica completed 93.6 percent of the "outside" hours required, she was considered to have mastered this requirement.

The credits required by the North Kansas City School District for graduation are based on the North Central Association accrediting requirements. When the student completes her required credits, she is considered a graduate of her home high school within the North Kansas City Schwww.nkcsd.k12.mo.usool District.

On North Kansas City High School's website, Ombudsman Program is listed as an alternative program offered by the high school. The website also indicates that the Ombudsman diploma is fully accredited with the standards set by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

On November 3, 2004, we spoke with Linda M~, a Social Insurance Specialist/Policy Analyst in the area of Title II Students with the Office of Income Security Programs, Office of Eligibility and Enumeration Policy, Baltimore, Maryland. After describing the requirements of the Ombudsman Learning Center to Ms. M~, she opined that it was within the requirements of an "independent study program." Ms. M~ noted the requirement in POMS RS 00205.285 that states that an "independent study program" must be recognized under State law. Ms. M~stated that, since Jessica's diploma was issued by her "home school" within the North Kansas City School District, this would be enough for the "independent study program" to be considered to be recognized under State law.

Analysis

Section 202(d) of the Social Security Act provides that child's insurance benefits usually terminate when the child attains age 18. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(6) and (7). Entitlement to child's benefits may continue, however, if (among other things) the child "was a full-time elementary or secondary student and had not attained the age of 19." See 42 U.S.C. 402(d)(1). A full-time elementary or secondary student is defined as "an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the Commissioner of Social Security (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Commissioner) in the light of the standards and practices of the schools involved . . ." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined as "a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, which will be discussed later, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least 20 hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (2004).

The first issue is whether Ombudsman Learning Center qualifies as an educational institution. Because it is located in Kansas City, Missouri, the answer to this question must be determined under the law of the state of Missouri. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a) ("[y]ou attend a school which provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the State . . . in which it is located"); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.200A. Our prior legal opinion, dated November 14, 2002, remains unchanged on this issue. We believe that Ombudsman Learning Center qualifies as an educational institution under Missouri law pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). See Status of Ombudsman Learning Center as an Educational Institution, Jeremy D. F~ (November 14, 2002).

The next issue is whether Jessica is in full-time attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center. If the child is attending "a school which provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located," the child must be "in full-time attendance in a day or evening noncorrespondence course of at least 13 weeks duration which is considered full-time for day students under the institution's standards and practices."

20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). In her Statement Regarding School Attendance, Jessica indicated that the Ombudsman program began on September 1, 2003, and ended on May 18, 2004. Therefore, the duration of Jessica's course of study was for at least 13 consecutive weeks. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.315B.

Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least 20 hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). If the student is "in an independent study program . . . [the] number of hours spent in school attendance are determined by combining the number of hours of attendance at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours spent in independent study." 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). An independent study program is described as an "elementary or secondary education program in accordance with the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which you reside which is administered by the local school or school district/jurisdiction." 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2).

We believe that Jessica's course of study at Ombudsman Learning Center qualifies as an "independent study program." The POMS defines an "independent study program" as "run by local education agencies (LEA) such as high schools or school districts, in accordance with specific State law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation. The programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home." POMS RS 00205.285.A. We believe that the contract between North Kansas City High School and the Ombudsman Learning Center is enough of a link to be considered to be "administered by" a local education agency. In addition, we believe that, since Jessica's diploma was issued by her "home school" within the North Kansas City School District, this would be enough for the "independent study program" to be considered to be recognized under State law. See also Status of Ombudsman Learning Center as an Educational Institution, Jeremy D. F~ (November 14, 2002).

As discussed above, Jessica spends 15 hours a week at Ombudsman Learning Center and 14.04 hours a week in an "outside" activity. Combining these hours, Jessica spends 29.04 hours per week working towards her diploma. Because Jessica is enrolled in an "independent study program" for which hours of attendance at a school facility can be combined with the number of hours spent in independent study, we believe that Jessica meets the requirement of 20 hours per week of scheduled attendance and is in full-time attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.310.B.

This conclusion is further supported by the fact that Jessica is considered a full-time student by Ombudsman Learning Center in light of the school's standards and practices. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). Though there is no case law regarding this subject from Missouri state courts, federal district courts, or the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, an examination of case law from other jurisdictions shows an emphasis on this factor in conjunction with a broad construction of the Social Security Act in determining whether an individual is a full-time student based on 20 hours of scheduled weekly school attendance. See Haberman v. Finch, 418 F.2d 664, 666-667 (2nd Cir. 1969); Okesson v. Shalala, No. 93-1554-PA, 1994 WL 86773 at *3 (D. Or. Aug 9, 1994); Swanson v. Bowen, No. C-86-20621-WAI, 1988 WL 251979 at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 23, 1988);

20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c).

In Haberman v. Finch, 418 F.2d 664, 666-667 (2nd Cir. 1969), a student resumed her schooling at age 17 after a 3-year absence due to a serious illness by enrolling in a private school attending 16 1/2 hours of class a week as an evening high school student. Id. at 665. The student was unable to enroll in any other public or private school and no other school in the area offered her any more classroom hours. Id. The parties stipulated that the student's class load was equivalent to that of full-time day instruction. Id. at 665-66. The court noted that the Social Security Act is a remedial statute which is to be broadly construed and liberally applied. Id.at 666. In addition, legislative history took into account "the standards and practices of the school involved." Id. at 667. Based on the facts of this case, the court determined that where there was no question the student was within the class of persons sought to be covered, the student had diligently pursued her studies and taken the maximum number of hours available in any accredited school and had "done her level best to comply with the regulations," she was eligible to receive continued benefits notwithstanding the regulatory definition of a full-time student as one attending not less than 20 hours of classes per week. Id.

In Okesson v. Shalala, No. 93-1554-PA, 1994 WL 686773 (D. Or. Aug. 9, 1994), a student left high school one month before her scheduled graduation because she was failing a class. Id. at *1. With assistance from her high school principal, the student enrolled in a community college pursuant to its agreement with her high school that allowed her to receive credit toward graduation from her high school for completion of courses from the college. Id. at *1. During the summer, the student enrolled in 2 3-credit hour courses and in the fall, she enrolled in 4 classes at the college for a total of 10 college credit hours. Id. Both the student's high school and college certified that her fall classes were equal or comparable "to 20 hours per week of high school seat time" based on hours spent outside the classroom studying. Id. at *1-2. The court noted that application of the 20-hour rule "to the unusual facts here produces a result contrary to congressional intent," which requires that a student's status be determined "'in light of the standards and practices of the schools involved." Id. at *3 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A)).

Based on the specific facts of this case, Social Security Regulations, the POMS, and especially in light of the emphasis in case law on the standards of the involved school and broad construction of the Social Security Act, we believe that Jessica's attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center can be considered full-time. Thus, we believe that, from September 1, 2003, through May 18, 2004, Jessica can be considered to have been in full-time attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center and benefits can continue until May 18, 2004, her last date of full-time attendance at Ombudsman Learning Center.

While it is reasonable to conclude that most students attending Ombudsman Learning Center can be considered full-time students, if there are cases in which there are questions as to the validity of a student's "outside" activities, please request further advice.

Frank V. S~ III
Chief Counsel

By
Stacy A. M~
Assistant Regional Counsel

D. PR 04-175 Status of Crossroads Christian Academy, West Plains, Missouri, as an Educational Institution (Jennifer D~, SSN ~ C2)

DATE: December 13, 1999

1. SYLLABUS

Crossroads Christian Academy (CCA) complies with Missouri compulsory attendance statutes and provides a secondary education under Missouri law. The CCA is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have requested our opinion as to whether Crossroads Christian Academy, a private, nonaccredited high school located in West Plains, Missouri, qualifies as an "educational institution" within the meaning of section 202(d)(7) of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7). It is our opinion that the school does qualify as an educational institution because it complies with the state compulsory attendance statutes.

The facts of this case indicate that Jennifer D~, a beneficiary of child's benefits, attained age 18 on September 14, 1999. She completed an SSA-1372-F4 dated August 11, 1999, on which she stated that she was attending Crossroads Christian Academy, a high school, 28 hours per week beginning August 1999. Although she indicated that the school year ended May 1999, we believe she intended to state that the school year would end May 2000. According to the information you have developed, Crossroads Christian Academy maintains an educational program directed toward obtaining a high school diploma. They provide an established curriculum and teach "required courses." We contacted the school's principal, Dudley Z~, on December 9, 1999, to clarify what courses were taught. He stated that the school offers an accelerated curriculum which includes subjects such as phonics, reading, mathematics, language, history, and English. They test students before placement in a particular grade. The school operates Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. The development you received from Crossroads Christian Academy included a copy of an Appeals Council decision dated May 1999 which found a similar private school situation in Doe Run, Missouri, to be an educational institution.

Section 202(d) of the Act provides that child's insurance benefits usually terminate when the child attains age 18. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(6) and (7). Entitlement to child's benefits may continue, however, if (among other things) the child "was a full-time elementary or secondary student and had not attained the age of 19." 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A full-time elementary or secondary student is defined as "an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the [Commissioner] (in accordance with regulations prescribed by him) in the light of the standards and practices of the schools involved. . . ." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined as "a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least twenty hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (1999).

The Missouri statutes have few provisions relevant to private schools in general or to religiously-based private schools in particular. Missouri's compulsory school attendance provisions provide only that "[e]very parent, guardian or other person in this state having charge, control or custody of a child between the ages of seven and sixteen years shall cause the child to attend regularly some public, private, parochial, parish, home school or a combination of such schools not less than the entire school term of the school which the child attends. . ." Mo. Ann. Stat. § 167.031.1 (Vernon Supp. 1998). The statute does not dictate any curriculum to be followed in a non-public school. In fact, other than some minimal subject requirements for home schools, the statute specifically states "all departments or agencies of the state of Missouri shall be prohibited from dictating through rule, regulation or other device any statewide curriculum for private, parochial, parish or home schools." Id. at § 167.031.3.

In addition to exercising no control over the curriculum of non-public schools, Missouri statutes do not require that non-public schools be licensed or accredited in the state of Missouri, nor are teachers in non-public schools required to hold a state teaching certificate. We note that the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) instructions for determining whether a non-public school is an educational institution includes the requirement that the non-public school "hires either professional teachers who hold State teaching certificates or individuals who meet the State educational requirements." POMS RS 00205.250.A.3. The POMS requirement is more restrictive than the state law requirements in Missouri; therefore, the POMS cannot be applied in this case. The Dallas Region has issued a modification to this POMS section which provides that a school "need not be accredited or approved by a State to be considered an [educational institution] for purposes of paying student benefits. To determine whether an unaccredited, non-public school meets the definition of an [educational institution] for the payment of student benefits, SSA looks to State laws (and court cases interpreting State laws)." POMS GN R00205.250 DAL. The Dallas regional instructions are consistent with our interpretation of the federal statute. We will be happy to draft or assist in drafting regional instructions for the Kansas City Region.

In conclusion, because Missouri's compulsory school attendance law may be complied with by attendance at a private, parochial, or parish school, we conclude that Crossroads Christian Academy does provide a secondary education under the law of the state of Missouri. The lack of approval or accreditation of the school does not detract from our conclusion.

Frank V. S~ III
Chief Counsel

By
Rhonda J. W~
Assistant Regional Counsel

E. PR 01-195 Status of Life Christian High School, St. Louis, Missouri, as an Educational Institution (Amanda P~, SSN: ~)

DATE: August 17, 2001

1. SYLLABUS

Life Christian High School (LCHS) in St. Louis, Missouri, provides education that complies with Missouri's compulsory attendance statutes. Thus, LCHS is an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

Factual Background

The materials you sent with your request indicate that Amanda P~, a beneficiary of child's benefits, attends Life Christian High School full-time. You contacted the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the North Central Association and learned that Life Christian High School is not approved or accredited by the State of Missouri. However, Tamara C~, vice-principal of the school, faxed a copy of the school's accreditation certificate, issued by the International Christian Accrediting Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We contacted Ms. C~ on July 31, 2001, to obtain further information about Life Christian High School. She indicated that the school provides a regular high school curriculum five days a week from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Life Christian High School is in session 180 days per year and this year will be in session from August 27, 2001, through June 2, 2002. The school's program is directed toward obtaining a high school diploma and they teach coursework similar to that taught in Missouri public schools. Students are tested and their performance on such tests dictates whether they will pass a course. Teachers at Life Christian High School are required to have a Bachelor of Science degree and be working toward obtaining a state teaching certificate.

Analysis

Section 202(d) of the Social Security Act provides that child's insurance benefits usually terminate when the child attains age 18. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(6) and (7). Entitlement to child's benefits may continue, however, if (among other things) the child "was a full-time elementary or secondary student and had not attained the age of 19." See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A full-time elementary or secondary student is defined as "an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the [Commissioner] (in accordance with regulations prescribed by him) in the light of the standards and practices of the schools involved . . ." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined as "a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located." Id. at § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). Except for two specific exceptions noted in the Social Security regulations, the student must be scheduled to attend school for at least 20 hours per week in order to be considered a full-time student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c)(2001).

The Missouri statutes have few provisions relevant to private schools in general or to religiously-based private schools in particular. Missouri's compulsory school attendance provisions provide only that "A parent, guardian or other person in this state having charge, control, or custody of a child between the ages of seven and sixteen years of age shall cause the child to attend regularly some public, private, parochial, parish, home school or a combination of such schools not less than the entire school term of the school which the child attends " Mo. Ann. Stat. § 167.031.1 (West, WESTLAW through 2001). The statue does not dictate any curriculum to be followed in a non-public school.

In fact, other than some minimal subject requirements for home schools, the statue specifically states "all departments or agencies of the state of Missouri shall be prohibited from dictating through rule, regulation or other device any statewide curriculum for private, parochial, parish or home schools." Id. at § 167.031.3. Additionally, the provisions of the Missouri Constitution declaring that there shall be a separation of church and state are not only more explicit but more restrictive than the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. See Paster v. Tussey, 512 S.W.2d 97, 101-02 (Mo. 1974). The Paster court went on to say that ". . . individuals, as such, do act and live with a sectarian purpose in the area of education-an objective which the people of Missouri, speaking through their constitution, have protected fully but also have declared to be one personal to the individual." Id. at 105.

In addition to exercising no control over the curriculum of non-public schools, Missouri statutes do not require that non-public schools be licensed or accredited in the state of Missouri. Teachers in non-public schools are not required to hold a state teaching certificate.

In conclusion, because Missouri's compulsory school attendance law may be complied with by attendance at a private, parochial, or parish school, we conclude that Life Christian High School does provide secondary education under the law of the state of Missouri. The lack of approval or accreditation of the school does not detract from our conclusion. Moreover, according to Ms. C~, a student in full-time attendance at Life Christian High School will attend school 37.5 hours per week. This meets the regulatory requirement of at least 20 hours attendance per week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c) (2001).


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905028
PR 07905.028 - Missouri - 03/23/2011
Batch run: 09/14/2017
Rev:03/23/2011