Legislative Update: New Laws Affecting School Districts and Community College Districts

KMTG will be issuing a series of updates on new legislation signed by Governor Brown.  All laws become effective January 1, 2013, unless otherwise stated.

Pupil Fees—AB 1575

AB 1575 prohibits public school students from being required to pay a fee for participation in an educational activity.  The new law applies to all public schools, including charter and alternative schools.

A “pupil fee” is defined by the new law as a fee, deposit, or other charge imposed on pupils, or pupil’s parents, in violation of the requirement that educational activities must be provided free of charge to all pupils.  A pupil fee includes, but is not limited to, the following: (1) a fee charged to register for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or whether the class is taken for credit;  (2) a payment or security deposit for a book, lock, locker, class apparatus, uniform, musical or other equipment or material; and (3)  a purchase that a pupil is required to make to obtain materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an educational activity. 

“Educational activity” is defined as an activity that is offered by a school district, school, and county office of education or charter school “that constitutes an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education, including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activities.” 

All supplies, materials, and equipment that a pupil needs to participate in educational activities must be provided free of charge.  However, the new law provides that it should not be interpreted to prohibit a school from soliciting voluntary donations, voluntary participation in fundraising activities, or from providing prizes or recognition to students for voluntarily participating in fundraising activities.

Beginning with the 2014-15 fiscal year, the State Department of Education will be required to develop and distribute guidance to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators regarding the imposition of pupil fees for participation in educational activities.  AB 1575 sets out a complaint procedure that provides complaints may be lodged with the principal of a school under uniform complaint procedures and allows for appeal to the State Department of Education.  Public schools must establish policies and procedures to implement the complaint procedures by March 1, 2013.

Layoff Notice Period For Classified Employees---AB 1908

AB 1908 extends the period of time in which notice must be given before a classified employee may be subject to layoff, amending Education Code section 45117 and section 88017. 

Currently, classified employees who are subject to layoff at the end of a school year as a result of the expiration of a specially funded program must be given written notice on or before April 29.  Current law also requires that a classified employee be given not less than 45 days notice before the effective layoff date if the date of termination for a specially funded program is a date other than June 30.  The 45-day notice requirement also applies to classified employees who are subject to layoff due to a bona fide reduction or elimination of a service that is performed by a department.

AB 1908 extends the layoff notice requirement from 45 days to 60 days.  It requires that a school district or community college district give a classified employee written notice of not less than 60 days before the layoff date if the termination date of any specially funded program is other than June 30.  AB 1908 further provides that, if a layoff is the result of a bona fide reduction or elimination of the service being performed by any department, the school district or community college district must give classified employees subject to layoff for lack of work notice not less than 60 days prior to the effective date of layoff.

Bullying By An Electronic Act—AB 1732

AB 1732 clarifies the definition of what constitutes bullying by means of an electronic act, and includes posting on a burn page or impersonating another student.

Current law prohibits the suspension or recommendation for expulsion of a pupil unless the school principal or school district superintendent determines that he or she has committed an offense listed in Education Code section 48900, one of which is bullying.  Bullying is currently defined “as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act.”  An electronic act includes a “post on a social network Internet Web site.” 

AB 1732 defines what constitutes a “post on a social network Internet Web site,” specifically including (1) posting on or creating a burn page, (2) creating a credible impersonation of another pupil, or (3) creating a false profile.  A post may constitute bullying if it places a reasonable pupil in fear of harm, has a detrimental effect on the pupil’s physical or mental health, or interferes with a pupil’s academic performance or ability to participate in or benefit from a school activity.  “False profile” is defined as “a profile of a fictitious pupil or a profile using the likeness or attributes of an actual pupil other than the pupil who created the false profile.” 

Additionally, AB 1732 specifically provides that “an electronic act shall not constitute pervasive conduct solely on the basis that it has been transmitted on the Internet or is currently posted on the Internet.” 

Alternatives To Suspension Or Expulsion—AB 1729

AB 1729 gives school administrators more flexibility in disciplining students, including alternatives to suspension or expulsion that are age appropriate and aimed at correcting the specific behavior.

Existing law provides that a pupil shall not be suspended or recommended for expulsion, unless a principal or superintendent of a school district determines that a pupil has committed an act specified in section 48900.  Section 48900 currently authorizes a principal or superintendent to use his or her discretion to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion, such as counseling or an anger management program.  AB 1729 amends section 48900 to authorize a principal or superintendent of a school district to “use his or her discretion to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion that are age appropriate and designed to address and correct the pupil’s specific behavior as specified in Section 48900.5.” 

Section 48900.5 currently provides, “Suspension shall be imposed only when other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct.”  However, a pupil, including a pupil with exceptional needs, may be suspended upon a first offense, if the principal or superintendent of schools determines that the pupil committed specific offenses enumerated in section 48900 or “that the pupil’s presence causes a danger to persons or property or threatens to disrupt the instructional process.”

AB1729 amends section 48900.5 to allow a school district to document the other means of correction used for a student and to place that documentation in the student’s record.  Other means of correction provided for by AB 1729 include, but are not limited to (1) a conference between school personnel, the pupil, and the pupil’s parent or guardian; (2) referral to a school counselor, psychologist, social worker, child welfare attendance personnel, or other school support service personnel for counseling or case management; (3) study, guidance, or resource panel teams, or other intervention-related teams to assess behavior and develop and implement  plans to address the pupil’s behavior; (4) referral for comprehensive psychosocial or psychoeducational assessment; (5) enrollment in a program that teaches anger management skills or prosocial behavior;  (6) participation in a restorative justice program, (7) a positive behavior support approach using tiered interventions that occur during the schoolday on campus; (8) after-school programs that address specific behavioral issues or expose pupils to positive activities and behaviors; or (9) alternatives described in Section 48900.6. 

Suspension for first time offenses is still allowed under Section 48900(a) through (e), without first attempting other means of correction.  Section 48900.5 is amended to eliminate language that allows administrators to suspend students for first time offenses under Section 48900(f) through (r) based on a finding that the student causes a danger to persons or property or threatens to disrupt the instructional process.  Section 48900.5 will now permit suspension for first time offenses under Section 48900(f) through (r) if “the pupil’s presence causes a danger to persons.”

What This Means To You

Board policies and administrative regulations should be reviewed to ensure compliance with the newest changes in the law.  School administration and staff should be updated as to any changes so that the appropriate policies are consistently followed.  KMTG attorneys are available to assist in review and revision of Board policies and regulations.

Questions

If you have any questions concerning the content of this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.

Christian M. Keiner or Meghan Covert Russell | 916.321.4500

 

Published In: Administrative Agency Updates, Communications & Media Updates, Education Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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