Los Angeles

SoCal High School Charges Students for Free Items

Your family may be writing checks for school supplies that you should be getting free of charge.A group of students from the Los Angeles Unified School District spent thousands of dollars for an extracurricular activity that, by law, the school district should have paid for, NBC4's I-Team has learned.

Students from the 2014 Carson High School Drill Team were told by their teacher and advisor that participation required a $1,200 commitment that would pay for uniforms, practice gear and other required items.

"We didn't get everything we paid for," said student Ariana DeLeon.

Students said they received items from the dollar store, and in some cases, items that were homemade and well short of what they paid for.

"I really want to know where all the money is going," said parent Norma Arroyo.

The list of items students never received is long -- half the season was over in 2014 when they started writing formal complaints and sending receipts to the LAUSD.

"We acknowledge there were some issues with the management of the Carson Drill Team," said Christopher Downing, superintendent of Local District South.

Downing said state law mandates that the district is responsible to provide required equipment for school-sanctioned extracurricular school activities.

The district's inspector general launched an investigation with more than 100 pages of documentation detailing its findings -- it was the district's responsibility to provide the items, and the students should not have paid for anything, Downing said.

A year later, the families still had not received reimbursement.

Now, Downing promises that the approximately 30 students involved will get their money back in a few weeks.

The drill team instructor is no longer a school employee, he said.

Bianca Arroyo said what's bonded the 2014 drill team is the shared experience of feeling ripped off.

"We thought it would be fun and it turns out it wasn't even fun," she said.

But the season for them has changed -- some have graduated, and she said the parents have endured the most hardship.

"They had to work hard for that money just to keep their daughters happy," she said.

The district said the school board will be exploring the new ways to make sure schools and teachers comply with the law, so families aren't charged for the materials the district should be paying for.

If you think your school is not in compliance, you can file a complaint form that can be downloaded here.

Here is a list of educational activities California public schools are not allowed to charge for, according to state law:

  • Science lab equipment or supplies
  • PE uniforms required to take the class
  • Participating in sports teams
  • Attending graduation ceremonies
  • Books used in class
  • Photography or art class supplies
  • Attending summer school
  • Graduation Attire (if required for commencement ceremony)
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