The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

July 25, 2007

State law: Schools are required to supply kids

Teachers are not legally allowed to solicit fees

Each summer, parents and students make a mad dash through stores such as Wal-Mart and Kmart in search of a specific notebook or special pencil.

Although shopping for supplies is a back-to-school tradition, it is not a necessity. Unbeknownst to many, state law requires schools —not parents — provide supplies, including notebooks, pens, papers and crayons.

“The courts have ruled schools must provide instructional supplies necessary to take advantage of the course,” Office of Education Performance Audits Director Kenna Seal said.

In 1974, the state Supreme Court ruled that textbooks, workbooks and materials necessary for use in the required curriculum in public schools must be provided without charge for needy students.

Following a 1995 case, the court clarified that free of charge applied to every student, regardless of income level.

What this means, Seal says, is teachers are not legally allowed to solicit fees or give students a list of supplies needed for course completion, and schools with teachers who do so can be — and have been — cited in OEPA performance audits.

Although Greenbrier County was cited in 2001 and Cabell County was recently cited for posting supply lists, Seal says both counties took action to resolve the problem and similar incidents have been isolated.

“I don’t know of any school system that systematically sends a memo out and tells teachers to charge parents,” he said.

Seal says each county has more than enough money to provide necessary school supplies.

“We have levy moneys,” David Severt, Raleigh County assistant schools superintendent, said. “Schools have plenty of money to buy the supplies they need.

“Free means free.”

Though Nicholas County Superintendent Beverly Kingery has been on the job less than a month, she says, following the incident in Cabell County, she found a memo former superintendent Luther Baker sent in August 2006 reminding principals and teachers not to charge fees or ask students to bring supplies.

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