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Pattern of illegal pupil fees masked as "donations" continues to plague Torrey Pines High

Once again "donation" requests in SDUHSD were found to violate the "free school guarantee" under state law and the California Constitution. See Cal. Const. Art. IX, §5 and CCR § 350. In a letter dated January 26, 2018, the district found that the Torrey Pines High School dance team violated state law by requiring its dance students to pay a "donation" of $200 to attend a mandatory boot camp, and to purchase a new $65 team jacket in order to participate on the team. The district will now reimburse all families who paid for these items.

In SDUHSD, athletic programs are purposely underfunded by the District Administration, forcing bad precedent in the district which puts a heavy burden on the backs of families to raise money so that THEIR STUDENT can participate in a CIF sport or other school sponsored activities. To date, we have found that SDUHSD pays for some coach stipends (not all per their policy) and 50% of the transportation costs for athletics (even though the district requires that all students take buses to events). The district does not pay for any safety equipment, uniforms, or even for the maintenance of the athletic fields on their school sites.

A few months earlier, the district found that the boys' volleyball team at Torrey Pines had violated the free school guarantee by requiring its students to pay for the bus transportation fees. The CA Dept. of Ed found that all pupils affected by the mandatory nature of the transportation "donation" request had to be refunded. Foundation liaisons have also complained how the foundation automatically takes transportation fees from the funds teams raise, even if families have not paid them, arguing that such an automatic practice ignores how these are supposed to be voluntary payments. (Other school foundations, such as La Costa Canyon's, do not automatically may teams pay).

Parent Wendy Gumb and others have been outspoken critics of the wording of certain donation requests by school foundations and teams contending that they use language that make the "donations" seem mandatory, which violates state law. She and others have urged the Board to enact policies to make sure Foundations and teams have clear guidance about how requests can be worded so that families, teams and the Foundations are better equipped to fundraise within the free school guarantee mandate and so that students and parents do not feel that payment is required in order for their students to participate in school and extracurricular activities.

What does the Ed Code say? Per the Ed Code:

  • What is the "free school guarantee"? A "pupil enrolled in public school shall not be required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity," § 49011(a).

  • "Educational activity" is defined as "an activity offered by a school, school district, charter school ... that constitutes an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education, including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activities." Ed Code § 49010.

  • Participation cannot require "donation." Schools cannot offer course credit or privileges related to educational activities in exchange for money or donations of goods or services ... and ... shall not remove course credit or privileges related to educational activities" if the pupil, parents or guardians did not pay the donation. § 49011(b).

  • Prohibited fees: Schools may not ask for"donations"as a condition of registering for school or classes or as a condition for participation in a class or an extracurricular activity (regardless of whether it is elective, compulsory or for credit), or as security deposits for lockers, books, class items, instruments, uniforms or other materials or equipment. § 49010.

Concerned that your school's donation request feels mandatory? Persons who believe a donation request violates the Ed Code's and Constitution's free school guarantee may file a "Uniform Complaint" with the principal of their school (and may do so anonymously). Uniform complaints may be filled to raise concerns about discrimination, harassment, bullying, inadequacy of instructional materials (a "Williams" complaint) and other items. See Board Policy 1312.3.

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