CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – As the school year nears, many parents are not only griping about the cost of school supplies, but are also complaining about the rising number of fees many public school students are being charged.
And as parents are being dinged for everything from laptops to lockers, the question is should a review take place for what fees are being charged?
Majestic Johnson, a Matoaka High School student, excited about the new school year, but is not looking forward to the costly fees she will need to pay to attend classes. In fact, going into her senior year, Johnson has a $40 senior fee, a $50 computer fee, a $50 parking fee and a $2 goggle fee.
"That's a lot of money," Johnson said. "They added a Chromebook fee, that wasn't there before."
Johnson's grandmother, Diana, pointed out the fees are something she did not have to pay when she attended public school.
Some question whether school districts actually breaking any laws since the Virginia Constitution states public schools must be free in Commonwealth.
WTVR CBS 6 found one parent of a Clover Hill High School student who has a bill of over $300. Our newsroom discovered a $315 fee for a nursing class in Henrico and a $180 fee for culinary class in Chesterfield.Charles Pyle with the Virginia Department of Education said the state has created guidelines for what fees schools can charge students. [BONUS: Read the Virginia code on student fees and charges]
Pyle pointed out schools can legally charge for things like parking, computers and lockers. However, they cannot charge for core classes or for textbooks.
"There is an exception for what is known as consumables, so for example, you are in a science lab and you are dissecting a frog. No one else is going to dissect that frog after you completed that lesson," Pyle said.
Pyle also emphasized every school system must have a waiver process if a family cannot afford a particular fee.
CBS 6 took some parents' concerns to the ACLU .
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of Virginia's ACLU, suggested the state should review why textbooks cannot be charged under Virginia code, but computers can be.
"It is one thing to charge a fee for a locker or for a parking space. It is another thing to charge for a Chromebook or a laptop which with all due respect is a functional equivalent of today's textbook," Gastañaga said.