Some CA schools look to penalize families for not volunteering

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There have been a lot of questions about whether schools can force parents into volunteering or if they're allowed to charge fees if the parents skip out.

Officially, the California Department of Education says parents can't be forced to volunteer, but that's not stopping a number of charter schools across the state from punishing kids for the actions of their parents.

At Downtown College Prep, a charter high school in San Jose, Assistant Principal Andria Placencia says parent volunteering is not required. "We've been lucky that we have parents who want to be here. They're really invested in what their kids are doing and having a say in what's going on at the school," she said.

"You can't just tell your kids how to be, how to do in school. You have to show them. You have to be the leader," said Teresa Pichardo, whose 16-year-old son is a College Prep student.

But late last fall, an investigation conducted by the San Francisco non-profit Public Advocates, found that dozens of schools across California, some in the Bay Area, had rules in place to possibly penalize students whose parents didn't fulfill mandatory service hours.

This led to the Department of Education to issue an advisory, reminding public and charter school officials of Assembly Bill 1575. It states that they cannot force parents into volunteering, nor can they charge fees to families in lieu of such a rule.

It was welcome news to College Prep alum, Sandra Cruz, a first-generation college student whose parents weren't able to be as active as they would've liked.

"Some have low-income jobs or they make minimum wage, so taking a day off from work would've been extremely hardship," she said.

But Pichardo, herself a single mom, says if there's a will, there's a way. "It's timing. It's going to take their dinner time, it's going to take their movie time or their social life that they have. But their kids and the community are definitely worth it."

Some educators we spoke to say the decision to get involved or not should rest solely on the parent.

"We want to make sure it's authentic, and that's why we don't require it. We want them to be invested on their own," said Placencia.
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