California law bans schools from penalizing students over fees

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday penned by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, that prevents public schools from withholding diplomas for students who have overdue bus fare or library books.

The Primary Education Fair Debt Collection Act prevents school districts from penalizing students for fees owed by their parents and from penalizing parents by reporting the debts to a credit auditor and affecting their credit rating. Previous law only stated that students were not legally required to pay the debt but didn't bar schools from penalizing students and parents for failing to pay debts.

"Going after parents who are struggling financially or don't know they even owe money to a school is unproductive and harmful," Gonzalez Fletcher said. "Penalizing kids for their families' inability to pay a bill is downright cruel."

RELATED: Bill would prevent school districts from sending unpaid fees to collections

Gonzalez Fletcher, who represents south San Diego County, introduced the bill in January after a report by Voice of San Diego that the San Diego Unified School District reported 380 parents to debt-collection agencies in the 2014-15 school year for overdue bus fees, according to her office. State legislators passed the bill in both chambers in August.

The Primary Education Fair Debt Collection Act takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.
 

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