Frequently Asked Questions
Is a form required to file a complaint?
No. Districts are required to establish local policies and procedures to implement the complaint process.
After I filed my complaint, I got new documents related to the complaint. Should I include the documents in my complaint?
Submit all available documents in the original complaint. You can submit new documents any time before the district has responded. CDE will not consider new documents in an appeal, no matter how important.
In an appeal, send the documents anyway to document that CDE had the evidence. They become part of the public record.
What if I do not receive a response from the school district after filing a pupil fees complaint?
Submit the complaint and count 60 days on your calendar. If there is no response, send the complaint to CDE letting they know you were not provided with a response to your complaint.
The district told me that my complaint is not a uniform complaint and gave me a new form to complete. Why did that happen?
If you receive a response from the district that your complaint was improperly filed, then send your original complaint and response from the district to the California Department of Education (CDE) as an appeal. This will allow CDE figure out if it was properly filed, and if yes, then it will submit to the district for a proper response. Also, this documents the complaint at the state level.
The school does not give receipts for purchases. How can I prove I paid pupil fees?
If you have no receipts or other evidence it is okay to file a complaint. Schools hide fees by accepting cash only, not providing receipts when collecting money, making verbal demands so there is no paper trail of illegal pupil fees, refusing to post information on the school website and other poor practices. Note the time and date, the person who collected the money, witnesses, and request a receipt and note what is said to you. The school will have to justify that no illegal pupil fees are being charged.
Can we file a group complaint?
Yes, a group can file a complaint. However, it is better to file as individuals. Separate complaints may have different facts. If you feel more comfortable filing as a collective, make sure each party has their own story with their evidence as part of the complaint.
I filed a complaint but the corrective action was never implemented. What do I do?
Two things: Contact CDE. File a another appeal. If the school keeps violating the law, submit a new complaint about the pupil fees. Keep filing complaints. The CDE training states: CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO COMPLY WITH UCP 5 CCR SECTION 4670(A) can result in the withholding of all or part of the local agency's relevant state or federal fiscal support in accordance with state or federal statutes or regulations; probationary eligibility for future state or federal support, conditional on compliance with specified conditions and proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction for an appropriate order compelling compliance.
The school is charging illegal pupil fees but CDE denied my appeal. What do I do?
Several complaints have been filed 3 or 4 times and appealed to the California Department of Education (CDE) to achieve a correct interpretation the law.
Four complaints about mandatory exam fees for International Baccalaureate fees ($150 application fee and $100 for each test) were filed before the correct findings were reached by CDE. File another complaint with new documents. Collect the new documents and re-submit.
Read the denial carefully. A denial means the school is not required to reimburse donafees.
However, it may still be a win because CDE requires a school practice to be changed - for example, school-affiliated groups will have to be trained about pupil fees laws.
What happens in an appeal? What does the district have to do?
Districts will challenge CDE findings in various ways. Some examples include a district will attempt to file a request for reconsideration or contact CDE staff to lobby for the results it wants. CDE will require districts to submit the evidence it considered when the pupil fees complaint was denied. Those are public documents that you can request from CDE.
CDE upheld my complaint, but parents did not receive a refund. What do I do?
Contact CDE. The rule is that districts must use reasonable efforts by the public school to ensure full reimbursement to all affected pupils, parents, and guardians, subject to procedures established through regulations adopted by the state board.
Who can file a complaint?
Any person may file a complaint - a parent, student, member of the public, etc.
How can I find out if a previous complaint was filed?
Request any previous pupil fees complaints and district responses about your school from the district. Request emails of the principal and other employees and the school-affiliated groups about the pupil fees you are complaining about. Use the California Public Records Act to search for documents.
Contact CDE and request pupil fees appeals of your school and district. Request emails of the principal and other employees and the school-affiliated groups about the pupil fees you are complaining about. Not all complaints about schools or districts will be appealed so a complaint about fees at your school may not be in the public records of CDE.
Every year near the end of the school year, our school’s 8th grade class takes a trip to a theme park. The trip is optional for the students, and all fees are absorbed by the money generated through fundraising by the interested students. If a student wants to attend, but did not participate in the fundraising, can the district stop that student from attending the trip?
Education Code Section 35330(b) is the provision of law that states the following:
(1) No pupil shall be prevented from making the field trip or excursion because of lack of sufficient funds. To this end, the governing board shall coordinate efforts of community service groups to supply funds for pupils in need.
(2) No group shall be authorized to take a field trip or excursion authorized by this section if a pupil who is a member of an identifiable group will be excluded from participation in the field trip or excursion because of lack of sufficient funds.
The Code views the students who did not take part in the fundraising efforts, regardless of the circumstances, to be a member of the identifiable group. (Please see CDE's Determination under the Donafees Tab)