ACLU alleges school districts illegally charge student fees

California Academy of Math and Science in the Long Beach Unified School District charges students fees for physical education uniforms that they are required to wear.
California Academy of Math and Science in the Long Beach Unified School District charges students fees for physical education uniforms that they are required to wear. californiaacademy.org

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today alleging that dozens of California school districts violate the state’s guarantee of a free public education by charging fees to students and their parents.

The lawsuit states that at least 32 school districts charge fees for physical education uniforms, athletic transportation and required materials in basic academic courses, says ACLU lawyer Mark Rosenbaum.

"Fees for textbooks, fees for workbooks, fees for assigned novels in English classes, fees for science lab equipment, fees for science manuals, fees even to take final examinations," he said.

The ACLU isn’t asking the courts to award monetary damages to the plaintiffs. The organization wants the state to monitor that school districts aren’t charging student fees – and to crack down on those that do.

Officials of the Irvine Unified School District say it began an investigation a few weeks ago into the fees it charges students.

San Diego's school district rescinded fees last month after the ACLU wrote district officials a letter saying they were illegal.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that such fees violate the state constitutional guarantee to a free public education.

The lawsuit names Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as its defendant. Governor's spokesman Matt Connelly says the administration is aware of the lawsuit and will review it when it is served.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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