Students in Foster Care Benefit from Urgency Legislation - Effective Immediately, AB 216 Modifies Graduation Requirements and School District Responsibilities

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Governor Jerry Brown this week signed into law Assembly Bill 216, an urgency measure designed to further define the standards and procedures for exempting pupils in foster care from local graduation requirements. The new law goes into effect immediately.

The chaptered bill amends Section 51225.3 and adds Section 51225.1 to the California Education Code to modify existing law in this area and add new responsibilities for school districts.

If a pupil in foster care transfers between schools after the pupil’s second year of high school (determined either by credit completion or duration), the pupil must be exempted from district coursework and other requirements that are in addition to statewide requirements, unless the school district determines that the pupil is reasonably able to complete the additional local graduation requirements in time to graduate from high school by the end of the pupil’s fourth year.

Under AB 216, school districts have new notification requirements and timelines, and must give pupils in foster care the option of completing a fifth year of high school, if desired, in order to satisfy the local graduation requirements. AB 216 also requires more communication with the pupil’s representatives -- i.e., the person holding the right to make educational decisions for the pupil and the pupil’s social worker.

The new law includes a number of provisions aimed at protecting pupils in foster care and the integrity of the exemption process. For example, a school district may not require a pupil to accept the exemption, and may not deny the pupil enrollment in courses for which he or she is otherwise eligible. In addition, if a pupil exempt from local requirements completes statewide coursework before the end of his or her fourth year, the school district may not require or request that the pupil graduate early. Once granted, an exemption may not be revoked or terminated, even if the pupil is no longer under the court’s jurisdiction. Finally, a school transfer may not be requested solely to qualify the pupil for the exemption.

The entire text of the chaptered bill can be found here.

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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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