A lawsuit filed Friday aims to bar Fresno Unified schools from charging fees for lab materials or student activities.
The suit was filed by Faith Martin, a Fresno teenager who said she had to pay more than $400 in class fees before she could attend her prom at Hoover High School last year. Martin graduated from Hoover in June.
The charges included $410 for band fees and another $30 for art classes' lab fees.
Martin's attorney, James Miller, said in the suit that by charging fees the district was treating education "as a commodity to be sold under the pitch of superior programs and increased advantages for its programs – so-called 'pay-to-play' programs."
Susan Bedi, Fresno Unified's spokeswoman, said the district had not reviewed the suit yet and would have no comment.
The high cost of extracurricular activities has been challenged in several lawsuits in California. The state Supreme Court said in 1984 that students and their families should not have to pay for activities – sports, extracurricular activities such as marching band and most classes – that are school-related.
Certain fees are allowed, such as direct costs for a class project and some transportation fees, insurance for athletes and physical education uniforms. Fees that are prohibited include those for band instruments, instructional materials, choir uniforms or athletics.
State law does allow for voluntary donations and fundraising to support school programs as long as those activities are not mandatory.
Last fall Clovis Unified paid $250,000 to settle a 2009 lawsuit that alleged the district illegally charged fees to students for extracurricular activities such as cheerleading and band.
Three families filed the lawsuit after receiving bills from Clovis Unified for thousands of dollars. One student said she received an itemized bill for more than $2,400 for band fees described as "voluntary donations."
Miller said he was baffled to see Fresno Unified continue to charge fees after Clovis Unified had just settled a similar case last year.
"It's either ignorance, indifference or a blatant disregard of the law," he said.
Miller said he will ask the court to force Fresno Unified to reimburse all of the fees it has collected from Martin and other students.
The case will be heard in Fresno County Superior Court in January.