Class Action California Lawsuit Challenges School Fees

Last Updated: September 28, 2010

This article appeared in the September 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Several American Civil Liberties affiliates in California and attorneys working pro bono have brought a class action lawsuit against the state of California for allowing school districts to violate the state constitution by charging school fees. Attorneys are asking the court to stop the practice immediately and to order the state to write regulations prohibiting the practice in the future.

The suit follows an investigation by the ACLU, documented in a report released this month, which found that more that 50 California districts charge fees for various items including textbooks, workbooks and uniforms.

A 1984 California Supreme Court decision ruled that the state could not place any financial burden on the right to an education. The decision also found that a fee-waiver program is not allowed as a way to circumvent the state’s constitutional guarantee to free public schools.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several students, including two unnamed Orange County students who were assessed fees but told their fees would be waived. The students claim they experienced delays in receiving their materials and texts and were humiliated in front of their peers during open discussions of their inability to pay.

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The ACLU Report on CA fees, “Pay to Learn,” along with additional coverage of the suit is available on its website:

Read more from the September 2010 Rural Policy Matters.