Sunday, May 31, 2015


By Bridgette Webb  | Los Feliz Ledger Contributing Writer |

June 2015  ::  For decades, many public high schools have been charging senior dues, a fee that includes the cost of many senior activities like a senior breakfast as well as the cost of a cap and gown.

Those dues can quickly add up and for some families may be too much to bear. Now parents can check one graduation expense off their list.

The 2015 graduating class will be the first in which the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will provide rentals for cap and gowns for free.

The issue came to a head after a 2010 lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging free cap and gowns were already law and that many California public schools were simply ignoring it.

Some school districts statewide, including the LAUSD, had continued to charge students for a cap or gown or only provided the items free of charge if a student lived at or below the poverty line. Both are violations.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that such fees violate the state constitutional guarantee to a free public education.

LAUSD officials were reminded in the fall of 2013 of the state law and finally informed schools of the change in the fall of 2014.

“It has taken a while for the district to plan the roll out of this policy,” said Nader Delnavaz, LAUSD director of college and career education. “The devil is in the details,” he said, referring to the district now having to add this $300,000 annual expense to an already tight budget.

Approximately 19,000 seniors will graduate this year from LAUSD’s 160 high schools. Because some school administrators said they feared the district will order inferiorly made caps and gowns to save money, individual schools, can chose to lose the cap and gowns all together and opt for a “free-dress” graduation.

However, the LAUSD’s Delnavaz thinks that is unlikely.

“Having a free-dress graduation brings up the question of equal access,” he said, meaning the possibility of a mixed graduating class with some students wearing caps and gowns and some not. “The schools should use the cap and gowns provided.”

For ceremonies starting this June, LAUSD officials expect the process to be “messy” and expensive, according to Delnavaz, as the district is forced to honor individual contracts some schools have already made with cap and gown providers.

Adding to this year’s cost, the LAUSD must refund students who have already rented a cap and gown if the student asks.

●● smf’s 2¢: “…if the student asks.”

It is precisely that attitude that brought the ACLU to bring the lawsuit in the first place.
“It has taken a while for the district to plan the roll out of this policy.”
It’s not a policy, it’s the law. And despite the timeline quoted in the article, the lawsuit (Doe v. CA – which enforces the previous "free education for all" decision [Harttzell v. Connell, 1984]), was settled in December of 2010.[]
The “while” it has taken LAUSD has been 4½ years - and four years of graduating seniors have been illegally charged.
Students+parents shouldn’t have to ask for what they are entitled to - and they shouldn’t have to wait for the District to “roll out a policy” …whether it’s for a refund or phys ed in elementary school or arts instruction or an AP course or health education or a well-qualified teacher.

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