A Chicago mother claims that the charter school her son attends -- and is known for raking in thousands of dollars each year in discipline-related fines -- is forcing her to pay them over $3,000 for her son's behavior.
In a recent HuffPost Live interview, Marsha Godard said her son's school, a Noble Network of Charter Schools school, is saying she is on the hook for fines due to demerits such as having untied shoes or being even a half-minute late to class. (Watch a clip of the segment above and the full segment, featuring the input of a former Noble school teacher, below.)
"Four demerits equals one detention and one detention equals $5, six detentions equals $30 and a suspension," Godard explained.
She went on to tell HuffPost that the school has refused to give her her son's report card due to the unpaid fines -- which she said she cannot afford, even on a payment plan.
"I'm unemployed," Godard, whose story has previously been featured on MSNBC and DNAinfo, said. "I'm trying to put food on the table, I'm trying to put clothes and shoes on our feet so I don't have money to pay fines when education is supposed to be free."
The Noble Network, a charter school program championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has drawn the ire of students and parents alike for collecting nearly $390,000 in disciplinary fines from low-income, largely African-American and Latino students and their families over just a three-year period. In 2011, the network collected nearly $190,000 in disciplinary "fees." Noble currently operates a dozen schools in Chicago.
According to a report released last year, the school charges students $5 for a pattern of minor infractions -- such as chewing gum -- and as much as $280 for two required behavior classes for those who rack up more than 25 detentions in a year. Those charges, Noble said in a statement, are part of "our culture which sets high expectations for behavior" and gets results: the system claims their public schools are among the city's highest performing.
"The discipline code allows us to be sure that the classroom is not disrupted for the vast majority of students and that those students who don’t follow the rules, learn that behavior has consequences," Noble previously claimed. "Self-discipline is an important lesson for students as they prepare for success in college and beyond."
Noble staff have also previously claimed that the fines, in focusing on smaller infractions, help deter more significant behavioral problems -- which ultimately creates a safer and more productive learning environment.
The media firestorm surrounding Noble's fines last year prompted an Illinois state senator to propose a new law that would prohibit schools from levying fees for student misbehavior.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said the school charged students $280 for misbehavior. The $280 figure refers to behavior courses that are mandatory for students who receive a certain number of detentions, per the 2011 Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE)/Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) report.