Willful Defiance

Students returned to school on August 12, under the promise of a new year. While summer vacation always seemed like it was ending too soon, I do remember the excitement of a fresh start afforded by new school supplies, new teachers and new classes. Unfortunately, parents were confronted by the same old district policies and the LAUSD’s habit of ignoring laws that they find inconvenient.

In 2012, Governor Brown signed AB 1575 which reinforced “the Free School Guarantee which has been in our California constitution since 1879.” This law specifically prohibits schools from selling “gym clothing with school logo, if the specific uniform with logo is required in order to be considered properly dressed for class.” Despite the straightforward wording of this law, both of the district supervised schools that my children attend are still trying to sell gym uniforms and are taking advantage of parents who are not aware of the rules under this legislation.

Included in the enrollment forms provided by Granada Hills Charter School is an order form for a variety of items including gym uniforms. They attempt to conform to the letter of the law, if not the spirit, by including a statement in small print that states that none of the items on the sheet are required for participation in academic programs. However, it takes a phone call to the school to learn that students can wear plain black shorts and either white or grey shirts that can be purchased anywhere.

Getting the information at Kennedy High School was more difficult. An initial call to the school to find out information about the dress code was directed to the Physical Education department. The teacher who answered the call responded that the students had to wear the uniform being sold by the school. When he was informed of the requirements mandated by AB 1575, he offered to provide used clothes at no charge. This is helpful for parents who cannot afford clothing, but our goal was to not overpay for them. It was only after getting in touch with the new Principal that we were told that plain brown shorts and white t-shirts are also acceptable.

For schools with uniform policies, the problem can be even worse. A co-worker with a child at a school downtown was told that the required uniform could only be purchased through the school. It was only after he mentioned AB 1575 that he was told that there was an ability to opt-out of the policy. He was actually asked not to spread the information to other parents.

The job of the school board is to oversee the schools and make sure that they are in compliance with district policy and relevant laws. Even with their bloated bureaucracy they seem unable to accomplish this task. Perhaps part of the problem is that they are too busy micromanaging functions like limiting what teachers can recommend for their students’ IEPs or mandating that schools participate in Breakfast in the Classroom rather than find the best way to provide a meal to students that need it. However, the biggest problem may be that the district is just too large to manage.