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Proposed Law Adds Clarification – and Teeth – to Illegal Pupil Fees Complaint Procedure

With graduation time fast approaching, now is a good time to remember that, if your district requires a cap and gown at graduation, it may not charge students a fee to rent one.  This is because the Education Code forbids charging fees for “educational activities,” the definition of which includes graduation ceremonies. (FMA 12-02; Sands v. Morongo Unified School District (1991) 53 Cal.3d 863, 873-874; cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1218 (1992).)

Members of the public who believe that an illegal pupil fee has been charged may file a complaint with the school district.  If the district finds merit in the complaint, it must make reasonable efforts to reimburse all parties who may have been subject to the illegal fee.

Even though existing law requires that all parties affected by an illegal fee be reimbursed if a pupil-fee complaint is found to have merit, some districts reimburse only the complainant.  Senate Bill 320, a proposed law before the California Legislature, seeks to prohibit District pupil-fee remedies that would “resolve a complaint . . . by providing a remedy to the complainant without also providing a remedy to all affected [parties].”

The Bill would also allow the Superintendent to verify and ensure compliance with proper pupil-fee complaint procedures.  For example, the Superintendent can require a school district to submit proof that they have remedied a pupil fee complaint correctly, or require the district superintendent to appear and explain any failures.

While SB 320 is only proposed legislation, it is important to make sure that your district is following the law as it relates to pupil fees.  If you have any questions about pupil fees, or any other legal issue affecting your district, please contact Kingsley Bogard.


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