Graduation Scam

A district may not require students to purchase a cap and gown as a condition of participating in the graduation ceremony. The CDE recommends that a district that requires students to wear a cap and gown at the ceremony inform students that: (1) the district will provide caps and gowns for graduating seniors for use during the ceremony, and (2) students also have the option to purchase an appropriate cap and gown from a vendor. No student should be required to self-identify as indigent in order to receive a cap and gown from the district.

- California Department of Education, 2013

Seniors celebrate their final year of public school with a series of rituals that are sure to put a strain on the finances of many families. In fact, yearbooks, proms, grad night and senior portraits are not even accessible to some. However, the state of California has declared that the pomp and circumstance of the graduation ceremony should be open to all. It has declared that it “is an ‘educational activity’ [and] pursuant to EC Section 490109(a)...a pupil fee cannot be charged.

Granada Hills Charter High School declares that “all students who participate in the ceremony must wear a cap and gown.” Therefore, under the education code, the school must provide the attire to the students without charge. Instead it charged a fee of $42 to students who paid before winter break. “Students who have not pre-paid for their cap and gown...will only be able to purchase a cap and gown during senior clearance for $60.00 CASH ONLY.” An option is not given for students who want to borrow these graduation uniforms.

As parents of a graduating senior, we called the school to find out why they were not complying with the law. After a little bit of runaround they told us that we could return the cap and gown after the ceremony for a refund. When asked if this option was available to all parents they stated that arrangements had to be made in advance. They also stated, incorrectly, that this policy was clearly stated in the senior packet.

The LAUSD School Board recently voted to include the fees for renting caps and gowns in the district’s budget. This ensured that the district run schools are in compliance with the law. However, since Granada is chartered through the LAUSD, the district bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that this school is also following the education code.  With graduation quickly approaching, they are running out of time.