Know Your Rights - Free Public Education in California
The California Constitution has guaranteed children in our state a system of free schools since1879. (California Constitution, Article IX, Section 5.) As the California Supreme Court hasexplained, this “free school guarantee” means that students in public schools cannot be chargedfees for participation in educational activities.Despite this clear prohibition, an ACLU investigation in 2010 revealed that school districtsthroughout the state were illegally charging students for a range of items, including essentialcourse materials like textbooks. We filed
Doe v. California
to stop these illegal practices and protect equal access to public education. In response to our suit,the state Legislature passed, andGovernor Brown signed, Assembly Bill 1575 (AB 1575) in 2012.
Now, starting March 1, 2013, you may file an AB 1575 complaint at your school if you havebeen charged an illegal fee
. If your complaint is valid, the fee should be eliminated and youand all other affected students and parents should receive full reimbursement. Informationregarding this complaint process and the “free school guarantee” must be provided to studentsand parents at least once a year in all public schools in California, including charter andalternative schools.This document explains how to use the AB 1575 complaint process to enforce your right to afree public education and where to find additional information and guidance regarding studentfees.
AB 1575 Complaint Process
Filing a ComplaintIf you believe you have been charged an illegal fee or have been required to purchase materialsthat should have been provided by your school, you may file a complaint with the principal of the school. A sample complaint form is available atwww.aclu-sc.org/free-schools.You may file an anonymous complaint, but if you do, the school will not be able to contact youto ask follow-up questions or to request additional information, so you should be certain thatyour complaint contains all of the information necessary to prove that the school charged anillegal fee.Investigation and Response Timeline
Within 60 days
from the date the principal receives the complaint, the school and/or districtmust investigate and send you a written response.The response should include the facts (based on evidence gathered during the investigation), thelegal conclusion reached by the school or district, the reasoning for the decision, correctiveactions taken, if any, and information about how to appeal. Please note that you will not receivea written report if you filed your complaint anonymously.