The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing three more Southern California school districts of illegally charging students to participate in cheerleading, athletics, and AP calculus classes.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Poway, Grossmont and San Dieguito school districts received letters from the ACLU last week demanding internal documents on their pay-to-play practices. The letters included such instances as:
- Mandating a total of $1,691 in fees to be on the cheerleading team, plus another $600 to $700 to participate on the competitive squad at Poway's Mt. Carmel High.
- Requiring all athletes to purchase a $25 card to be eligible for sports at Grossmont High.
- Requiring students to purchase their own instruments and tuxedos to participate in the school band or orchestra at San Dieguito's Torrey Pines High.
Pay-to-play has been illegal in California since April 1984. That year, the state Supreme Court ruled schools that charge children to participate in extracurricular activities violate the state's constitutional guarantee to a free education.
Yet at least one school district superintendent defended the practice.
“Anything we are charging for we believe is an appropriate charge,” Superintendent Ken Noah of San Dieguito Union High School District told the Union-Tribune. “That is based on our interpretation. We’ve done our due diligence. We review our policies and practices with legal counsel.”
As we wrote in February and in June, numerous instances of school districts disregarding this law has surfaced. Earlier this month, ACLU legal director David Blair-Loy sent the San Diego Unified School District a letter asking for officials to stop several examples of "pay to play" that were found at local schools. The group also asked for the money collected to be refunded to the parents.
The request followed a San Diego Union-Tribune investigation that found schools openly charging fees on their websites, despite a recent local grand jury investigation that slammed the practice.
San Diego superintendent Bill Kowba agreed that the practice was wrong and said the district will cease charging the fees and offer refunds where appropriate.
Los Angeles Unified began demanding a $24 donation from parents to continue busing athletes to games, but nixed the idea after news accounts sparked outrage. District Superintendent Ramon Cortines told the LA Daily News he was unaware of the proposal to charge athletes and didn't approve of the practice.