Governor Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 570 which will require changes to school district policies regarding student enrollment in continuation schools beginning January 1, 2014.
Continuation high schools provide opportunities for students to complete academic courses required to graduate from high school within a program of instruction that emphasizes occupational training and supports work-study. Students at continuation schools are offered intensive guidance services to meet their special needs. Current law requires Districts to maintain policies that outline criteria for involuntary transfers to these schools and is silent on criteria for voluntary enrollment. See Education Code section 48432.5.
Assembly Bill 570 will add section 48432.3 to the Education Code to address the voluntary enrollment of students to continuation high schools. Districts that choose to voluntarily enroll students in a continuation school must adopt policies governing the identification, placement and intake procedures for students who voluntarily enroll, including clear criteria to be applied consistently throughout the district for determining which students may voluntarily transfer, or be recommended for transfer, to a continuation school. Any such transfer must be based on a finding that the voluntary placement will promote the educational interests of the student.
The new law also clarifies that a student voluntarily enrolled in a continuation school has a right to return to his or her previous school. Additionally, parents will have the right to meet with staff from the transferring and receiving schools to verify that the continuation school placement is the best option for the student. The law identifies, to the extent possible, that the voluntary enrollment or transfer occur within the first four weeks of the school year.
District policies are required under the new law to ensure that voluntary enrollment in a continuation school will not be used as an alternative to expulsion unless alternative means of correction have been attempted. Districts must also strive to ensure that no specific group of students, including a group based on race, ethnicity, language status, or special needs, is disproportionately enrolled in its continuation schools.
Districts whose students enroll in a continuation high school on a voluntary basis should begin to update their board policies to comply with the new requirements. For more information, please contact Mary Hernandez or Leah Smith at (510) 695-2802.