As is referenced in the Chronological Summary of the Development of the Rule, the Supreme Court in Hartzell v. Connell stated that “educational opportunities must be provided to all students without regard to their families’ ability or willingness to pay fees or request special waivers.” As is also noted above, in 1998 the California Attorney General addressed the issue of donations, and emphasized that the constitutional concerns are alleviated when the raising of private funds is truly voluntarily.
School districts, schools, programs and classes can and do seek and accept donations of funds and property, and this practice is permissible as long as it is truly voluntary and in no way a prerequisite to participation in the program or activity. Therefore, any statement or explanation related to a donation that could lead a reasonable person to believe the donation may not be truly voluntary is to be avoided. Examples include but are not limited to a specified minimum amount of a donation, a date by which a donation is due, a lesser donation amount if funds are received prior to a certain date. Additionally, any statements or actions that exert explicit or implicit pressure on students or parents to make a donation are to be avoided, and the reason a student or family does not make a donation is not a subject for inquiry – as the Hartzellcourt said, access to educational programs must not be tied to the willingness to pay a fee or request a waiver, not only the ability to pay a fee or request a waiver.
NOTE: Teachers may not give extra credit to students in exchange for donations of goods or money to the school or to outside organizations.