Eye of the Editors: Mandatory Donations

Many students are unaware that it is illegal for school-sponsored activities to require funds.

The principle of free education has been a part of the California Constitution for well over 100 years, as confirmed earlier this year by an LA court judge. Nonetheless, organizations in Diamond Bar High School often charge mandatory membership fees to keep these programs running. The most distressing aspect of this situation is that students do not even know that they are by no means required to pay. In fact, it is illegal to require it.

Some clubs at DBHS have grudgingly informed their members that membership fees are no longer compulsory. While this is a step in the right direction, others have switched from “fees” to “mandatory donations,” as if changing the name will render it a new concept entirely.

This “pay to play” mindset is becoming increasingly prevalent in student run organizations, as well as in sports and in performing arts programs. It is an understandable occurrence, as school budgets have been cut multiple times and have less and less every year to give to such groups. Sports and performing arts count as classes, and in some extreme cases, students’ grades are impacted when they are unable to pay for the necessary materials. While some instructors or coaches will work to meet individual students’ financial needs so that everyone has the equal opportunity to education, others will not budge on membership fees. They are, in essence, forcing students to pay for an A. And as if in an effort to further burden students and their parents, many of these programs that require funding from the pockets of students’ families charge per child.

Not only do these fees affect a student’s eligibility to be in a program in the first place, but they may also influence what kind of standing he or she has in the group. When the time to choose new captains or club officers rolls around, the previous officers, as well as advisors of the organizations, will take various aspects into account. A member’s failure to donate monetarily inevitably works against him, no matter how hard he may have worked during the year for the club.

The natural question that will arise is that of how to raise money for the clubs. There are, without a doubt, clubs and extracurricular programs that get by on donations and fundraisers alone. Then there are organizations that indiscriminately demand money from students of varying financial stability without even attempting first to fundraise. They need to learn from the groups that make do with the cards they are dealt, and recognize that not only is the act of coercing money from students for a supposedly free education wrong, but also illegal in practice as well.