New 2014 Laws Impacting Charter Schools

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January 17, 2014 The start of 2014 brought into effect several new laws that impact how charter schools operate and govern. These laws include: Assembly Bill 2109, regarding immunization exemption requirements; Senate Bill 751, which makes updates to the Ralph M. Brown Act; and Assembly Bill 1266, concerning pupil rights in relation to sex-segregated school programs and activities.

Assembly Bill 2109

AB 2109 applies to all public schools in California, including charter public schools. AB 2109 requires parents who want to exempt their children from immunization requirements for school enrollment to obtain a signed letter from a health professional, beginning on January 1, 2014. The letter must indicate that the health care professional has provided information to the parent or guardian regarding the benefits and risks of immunization, including the health risks to the student and the community resulting from declining the recommended immunizations. The Department of Public Health has released a Personal Beliefs Exemption to Required Immunizations form, available here which is also required. All students newly admitted to California school(s), kindergarten through 12th grade, and all students starting 7th grade, who wish to be exempt from one or more required immunizations because of their personal beliefs must provide both the letter and the form to their school. Failure to do so will result in lost ADA. Read AB 2109.

Senate Bill 751 Ralph M. Brown Act Update

New Brown Act requirements also went into effect in January 2014. Senate Bill 751 amended the Ralph M. Brown Act in an effort to provide greater transparency to the public. This Brown Act amendment requires the votes of each member of a legislative body to be publicly reported, beginning January 1, 2014. Specifically, SB 751 requires that the "legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action." Board minutes must reflect the votes or abstentions of each board member. Read SB 751.

Assembly Bill 1266

Effective January 1, 2014, AB 1266 establishes that it is the policy of the state that school classes be conducted without regard to the gender of the pupil enrolled in these classes. It goes on to further require that students be able to "participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed in the pupil's records."

Existing federal and state civil rights laws applicable to public schools--including charter schools--already cover the requirements of the new law, which is aimed specifically at issues affecting transgender students. Nonetheless, the law offers no guidance on how to implement these requirements.

Charter schools are advised to review the recent closure letter and resolution agreement between the Arcadia Unified School District and the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, and the Department of Justice for guidance on how to develop policies to address the enrollment of students whose gender identity differs from their assigned gender. Charter schools should also consult with legal counsel when you become aware of a transgender student.

Some portions of AB 1266 are explicitly applicable only to school districts. Nonetheless, charter schools are already subject to these requirements pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In particular, under the new law, school districts generally may not prohibit a student from enrolling in any class based on the student's sex. Additionally, school districts may not require a student of one sex to enroll in a particular class unless the same class is also required for students the opposite sex.

Groups opposed to AB 1266 have filed a referendum to repeal the law. The Secretary of State is in the process of verifying signatures to determine whether the initiative qualifies for the ballot. We will keep you posted when there are new updates. Read AB 1266.