MSNBC: $5 fine for chewing gum? Parents, students protest discipline policy

15 02 2012
By Sylvia Wood,

A charter school network in Chicago praised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for its academic performance is under fire from parents and advocates for charging students $5 for some disciplinary infractions, including chewing gum, violating the dress code or being more than three minutes late to class.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which operates 10 high schools in the city, said it collected nearly $200,000 in discipline fees last year as part of a policy that asks misbehaving high school students to share in the cost of addressing the misbehavior. The money is then used by the school to offset the costs of teachers or staff who stay after school to administer detention.

“The goal is to promote positive behavior by staff and students and produce a learning environment that is conducive to learning and college preparation,” Michael Milkie, CEO and superintendent of Noble, said in a statement.

Emanuel, former White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama, has drawn criticisim from the Chicago Teachers Union for his open support of charter schools, including Noble, where teachers are mostly not unionzed.

Some education advocates say Noble’s approach to discipline is counterproductive and another burden for poor families who are already struggling to get by. Students who accumulate a certain number of demerit points over a two-week period are then sent to detention, for which they must pay a $5 fee.

“We think the discipline system is ridiculously petty,” Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, told on Tuesday.

Students and parents marched to City Hall on Monday to protest the discipline policy, which Woestehoff said is unnecessarily harsh.

“We’ve talked to a lot of parents who have taken their kids out of Noble,” she told

Donna Moore, a parent of a student at Noble school called the policy a “hidden tax on Chicago’s black and Latino families.”

“Noble is forcing low-income parents to choose between paying the rent and keeping their child in school,” she was quoted as saying on the website of Parents United for Responsible Education.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, offer students an alternative to the traditional public school system. They are increasingly popular in urban areas with high numbers of economically disadvantaged and struggling students.

Noble, founded by former Chicago public high school teachers, has a waiting list of 3,000 students wanting to enroll.

“We believe the fact that we had more than 8,000 applications for our incoming freshmen classes and long waiting lists for all our other classes demonstrates that families desperately want this safe, productive learning environment for their children,” Milkie said.

He told on Tuesday that the discipline policy provides a “safe, learning enviroment,” for Noble’s 6,500 students. Students who earn four demerits within a two-week period receive a three-hour detention and the $5 fine. Students with more than 12 detentions are referred to a class at a cost of $140. Accommodations are made for families who can’t pay.

“We sweat the small stuff,” Milkie said. “We think these are life skills that will help students.”

Figuring out what discipline policy work best is a matter of debate among school administrators across the country. The Advancement Project, a legal action group based in Washington, D.C., has been working with schools to encourage a less punitive approach to minor infractions.

“It’s unconscionable that a school could almost collect $200,000 in a year, especially when it’s their mission to serve low-income families and students of color,” Jim Freeman, a senior attorney with the organization, told

(Full Story)




One response

16 02 2012

Actually “Noble is forcing low-income parents to choose between paying the rent and keeping their child in school,” OR making them behave!!

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