CHICAGO (CBS) — Some parents and activists rallied at Chicago Public School headquarters in the Loop Monday to accuse a chain of charter schools of overly harsh discipline.
Protesters chanted: “Invest in us, stop arresting us.”
Their chief complaint? Charter schools run by the Noble Network send students to detention for minor infractions and fine them $5.
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“We are absolutely appalled that Noble is padding its pockets off the backs of hardworking people by fining them,” said Alexi Nunn Freeman of Advancement Project.
Since 2008 Noble Schools have collected more than $386,000 in fines and fees for behavior classes–including more than $188,000 last school year alone, CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports.
The system works like this, students get demerits for violations like chewing gum or talking in class. Four demerits equal a detention and a $5 fee to help cover the cost of staffing detention.
If a student gets 12 detentions, they have to take a $140 discipline course.
The protesters say most low-income families just can’t afford that, and they fear with the success of Noble Schools, the fees could be adopted across the CPS system.
The policies create a safe and productive learning environment, says Kimberly Neal, a principal at a Noble Network school, Muchin College Prep, 1 N State St.
“An example we always give students and parents: If you are late for work, would you have a job?” she said.
Julie Woestehoff, with Parents United For Responsible Education, said the practices have more to do with making money rather than keeping students safe.
“That sounds a lot like the excuse the dictator gives when imposing martial law,” she said.
Critics call the Noble Network policy predatory and punitive and say it’s counter-productive.
One parent, Donna Moore, said she eagerly sent her son to one of Noble’s schools. Now she says her son is repeatedly disciplined and fined for minor infractions, such has having a shoe untied or running a pencil along the edge of a desk.
Another parent of a Noble student, Kelly Castleberry, said she had no problem with the school’s policies.
“It teaches the students to be responsible for their actions. It also teaches the parents that you must be responsible for your children.”
School officials said students manage to go the entire year without getting a single demerit, so it’s possible never to receive a $5 fine.