Is it me, or have we as a society become overzealous in financially punishing people? Money is not the answer to everything.
Park in the wrong space, and, whack, it can cost you big bucks. Bounce a check and get smacked with a high penalty fee often two or three times the amount of the check. Now a charter school system in Chicago is charging students for detention. Noble Network of Charter Schools is requiring students at its 10 high schools to pay $5 every time they are sent to detention, reports the Associated Press.
The infractions that can add up and ultimately land a child in detention include chewing gum, having untied shoelaces or not looking a teacher in the eye, as AP and other news organizations have reported. The charter schools collected almost $190,000 in fees from discipline actions against students. Noble students receive demerits for various rule-breaking. For example, they get four demerits for bringing a cellphone to school or for having one shoelace untied. Four demerits within a two-week period earn them a detention and $5 fine. Students who get 12 detentions in a year must attend a summer behavior class that costs $140.
It’s not surprising that Noble’s detention policy is drawing some fire.
“Critics say Noble is nickel-and-diming its mostly low-income students over insignificant, made-up infractions that force out kids administrators don’t want,” AP reported.
“We think this just goes over the line ... fining someone for having their shoelaces untied (or) a button unbuttoned goes to harassment, not discipline,” said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of the Chicago advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education, which held protests over the policy last week.
Matthew Mayer, a professor in the graduate school of education at Rutgers University, told the AP that charging for detention was a “form of financial torture.”
The school’s superintendent, Michael Milkie, said the policy teaches the kids that there’s a cost when they fail to obey rules. He said the fees are also used to defray the after-school detention program and pay the salary of the network’s dean of discipline.
I agree with Mayer that Noble’s policy is extreme and harsh. A demerit for an untied shoe, really? My very disciplined but very forgetful son would be in detention the entire school year. As a friend pointedly said: “We keep looking for quick fixes to educating inner city children. We look for harsh, harsher, and the harshest ways to discipline them, motivate them, make them want to learn. But there is no substitute for caring about them. If we care about them – the way we seem to care about suburban children – we wouldn’t need to look for these gimmicks.”
That’s what I think, too. What about you?
The Color of Money Question for the Week: Do you think it’s a good policy to charge students for detention? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, town and state. Why do I ask for this information when I post the question of the week? I believe people are more respectful and thoughtful when they can’t hide behind anonymity. Please put “Charging for Detention” in the subject line.