As the end of school summer break approaches and school districts finalize plans for the 2013-2014 school year, now is a good time to review some important general rules relating to student fees. School districts around the state are well aware that Education Code section 49010 et seq. now provides a detailed set of parameters regarding student fees, charges, deposits, donations and fundraising. As such, school districts should keep the following general rules in mind for the new school year:
- Schools cannot require students to provide necessary school supplies used in the classroom, such as paper, pens, and crayons. Nor can schools charge a student for uniforms associated with an educational activity, such as cheerleading and marching band. However, schools and school programs may provide students with a list of supplies and ask students to make voluntary donations of such supplies, or request voluntary donations to cover the costs of uniforms. (See Ed. Code §§ 49010, subd. (b)(2)-(3), 49011, subd. (b)(1), (b)(4), (c); see also id., §§ 38111, 38118, 41032.)
- Schools cannot require students to pay a security deposit, or other payment, to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment. (See Ed. Code § 49010, subd. (b)(2); see also id., §§ 38111, 38118.)
- Schools cannot require students to pay a fee as a condition for registering for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or an extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit. (See Ed. Code, §§ 49010, subd. (b)(1), 49011, subd. (a), (b)(3)-(4); see also Hartzell v. Connell (1984) 35 Cal.3d 899; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, § 350.)
- Schools cannot require students to pay for a student body membership or other fees as a condition of participating on a sports team, music group or other school extracurricular or co-curricular activity. However, schools can ask students to do voluntary fundraising to help cover the costs for an extracurricular or co-curricular team or group. (See Ed. Code, §§ 49010, subd. (b)(1), 49011, subd. (a), (b)(3)-(4), (c); see alsoHartzell v. Connell (1984) 35 Cal.3d 899; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5 § 350.)
- Students cannot be required to purchase a specific physical education uniform from the school, unless the school provides such clothing to students for free. Schools also cannot require students to purchase clothing for physical education classes that contain a school's name, logo or emblem. Instead, schools may require students to satisfy a general design and color requirement for physical education apparel provided no student's grade is penalized for his or her inability to obtain clothing in compliance with the general design and color requirement. (See Ed. Code § 49066; California Department of Education, Fiscal Management Advisory 97-02, California Department of Education, Fiscal Management Advisory 12-02.)
- Schools may impose a fee on students for field trips, but students cannot be prohibited from attending or participating in such trips if unable to pay the fee. (See Education Code § 35330; California Department of Education, Fiscal Management Advisory 12-02.)
- Students may be charged for items that are not an integral part of the district's or school's educational program, such as school pictures or sports pictures. (California Constitution, art. IX, § 5; Hartzell v. Connell (1984) 35 Cal.3d 899.)
It should also be noted that, effective March 1, 2013, school districts were required to have procedures in place to address any complaints of noncompliance with Education Code section 49010 et seq. and the rules surrounding pupil fees. These complaints are required to be processed under the Uniform Complaint Procedures. The State Board of Education and California Department of Education are expected to finalize regulations relating to student fee complaints soon, but in the meantime districts should follow the process under the Uniform Complaint Procedures.
If you have any questions regarding permissible or impermissible fees, the complaint procedures or other issues related to pupil fees, please feel free to contact one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or download our Client News Brief App.