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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Two bills affect high school students
November 16, 2020
Two recently signed pieces of legislation that address the rights and graduation requirements of high school students in California have policy and process implications for school districts, according to attorneys at Lozano Smith. Assembly Bill 1350 addresses the retroactive granting of diplomas to students affected by COVID-19, while AB 908 addresses eligibility for athletics and work permits for students negatively affected by COVID-19 and other emergencies.

AB 1350
A Local Educational Agency can retroactively grant high school diplomas to students who were unable to obtain a high school diploma as a result of COVID-19. AB 1350 allows any high school district, unified school district, county office of education, or charter school to grant a diploma retroactively where certain requirements are met. First, the student must have been a senior during the 2019-2020 school year. Second, the student must have been in good academic standing, and on track to graduate as of March 1, 2020. Lastly, the student must have been prevented from completing the statewide graduation requirement(s) as a result of COVID-19.

This is a rare amendment to the Education Code as a result of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, made in light of the difficulties posed by distance-learning on students who could not access class materials as well as the unprecedented social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Amendments granting retroactive diplomas have only been made previously in extreme circumstances, including internment during World War II, honorable military service during war, or deportation. COVID-19 is now added to the short list of circumstances warranting the retroactive granting of a diploma.

Takeaway: LEAs serving high school students should develop a process to review pupil records and determine if any students are eligible to receive a high school diploma retroactively under this provision.

AB 908
The laws related to work permits and participation in extra-curricular sports have been amended to address COVID-19 emergencies.

Extracurricular Activities: To participate in extra-curricular sports a student must demonstrate “satisfactory educational progress” by maintaining at least a 2.0 grade point average and making minimum progress toward meeting graduation requirements in the previous grading period. When a student fails to meet those requirements, under existing law, he or she is placed on a semester-long probation.

AB 908 authorizes a school board to adopt a policy to extend the probationary period to exceed one semester and to go through the fall of the 2020-2021 school year. This amendment was adopted to address and acknowledge the impact of COVID-19, particularly on students who may have been struggling academically prior the physical school closures, who were then faced with the challenges of distance learning.

Work Permits: AB 908 allows work permits to be signed electronically during physical school closures related to natural disasters, pandemics or other emergencies. Additionally, the bill prohibits the denial of a work permit based on a student’s grades, grade point average, or school attendance when the school has been physically closed for an extended amount of time due to such an emergency.

Takeaway: School boards should consider whether to develop and adopt a policy to extend the academic probationary period for student athletes. Additionally, school staff responsible for issuing work permits should develop a system to utilize electronic signatures and to ensure students are not denied a work permit due to the impacts of COVID-19.
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