Students with unpaid fines and fees may soon be getting some relief thanks to a bill sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, District 47. HB 1715 passed the House on Monday with a vote of 64 to 30.
Currently, school districts can indefinitely withhold a student’s transcript and diploma if they have lost or damaged school property or have unpaid fines or fees. Once the student or their guardian has paid the money owed then their transcript must be released.
HB 1715 limits the amount of time that a school can withhold a student’s transcript or diploma to five years. The bill also requires school districts to notify students or their guardians about options to waive payment for the money owed, pay it, or perform community service to work off the debt.
In the course of meeting with constituents, Entenman learned of several situations where people either could not afford the fine or did not know they owed money to the school district. Not being able to access their transcripts created barriers to accessing higher education.
“This policy creates an inequitable barrier that falls the hardest on lower income students, said Rep. Entenman. “While I believe students should be held accountable, students should not have to pay for a mistake they made in high school for the rest of their lives.”
This bill is designed to make sure that students are aware of any monetary damages that they owe and options for paying them off. After five years, the school must release the student’s transcripts. It also brings the State into compliance with Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
This legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The 60-day Washington state legislative session will conclude on March 12.