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GRANITE DISTRICT’S OLD FEE POLICY WAS TOO RESTRICTIVE, COURT RULES

SHARE GRANITE DISTRICT’S OLD FEE POLICY WAS TOO RESTRICTIVE, COURT RULES

Granite School District's former policy of waiving school fees only for students from families receiving welfare benefits was illegally restrictive, the Utah Court of Appeals has ruled.

The 3-0 decision released Tuesday stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a single mother of six. The state's largest school district required her to pay part of the nearly $200 in fees assessed for three of her children during the 1986-87 academic year.The judges reversed the decision of 3rd District Judge Homer Wilkinson and declared the policy invalid.

But the ruling in the appeal of Gwen Lorenc has little practical effect, because the court said that on Sept. 18, 1989, Granite School District amended its policy to conform with State Board of Education rules.

Under those rules, fee waivers are available to all students whose parents are "financially unable to pay."

The district's policy was "clearly more restrictive than the board's regulation," Judge Russell Bench wrote, and thus "abrogates the Legislature's objective in ensuring that no student is denied the opportunity to participate because of an inability to pay the required fees."

In addition, the judges said Granite's practice of granting partial waivers, as they did in Lorenc's case, also was invalid because it was contrary to State Board of Education rules.

"A student is either eligible for a fee waiver or not," the judges said. "No provision is made for the reduction of fee payments or for the imposition of partial fees."

The Appeal Court denied Lorenc's request that her legal fees be paid by the district, saying she had failed to show her constitutional rights were violated.