Legal Issues and Small High Schools: Strategies to Support Innovation in Washington State

July 2004

This report explores legal issues affecting the establishment and operation of small high schools in Washington State. The authors found that inherited notions of what a school should look like, how it should operate, and how it should serve its students frequently stand in the way of the vision of a new kind of smaller and more personalized secondary schooling advanced by small school advocates. These notions, moreover, play themselves out differently depending on whether a small high school is created from scratch or several smaller learning communities are created within an existing larger high school.

Although this guide will be of interest to small school advocates everywhere, it is intended primarily for people engaged in small high school reform efforts in Washington State. It is our hope that this report will help small high schools design and operate effective programs by providing greater clarity about potential legal and policy impediments, and by providing information on how to work within the current legal and regulatory system.