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Don't pay fees, don't graduate

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As recounted in a story in Wednesday's Sun, many schools in the area are withholding certain activities from high school seniors who have not paid all their fees. At some schools, this means they cannot attend prom. At others, they can't march in graduation.

At Waubonsie Valley, students won't march in graduation if their fees aren't paid up. In District 203, one student in the past didn't receive a diploma until his bills were paid. At Naperville Central, about 90 students owe money from past unpaid fees, current year course changes, classroom books, athletic fees and equipment. The school has sent out an average of two to three notices since January that these fees are owed. At Naperville North, 110 seniors have outstanding balances totaling $10,874.

Local schools say they understand the economy is making it harder for some families to find the money for fees and that they are willing to work with families who have trouble paying.

What do you think of the policy? Do you agree with withholding things like prom or graduation from students because of unpaid fees?

Read the full story here: http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/napervillesun/news/2208640,6_1_NA28_GRADFEES_S1-100428.article

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I am a teacher and in my school the fees are for LOST library books, DAMAGED textbooks, BORROWED items that have not been returned. Given fair notice to the students, they need to be held responsible for these items. If we do not receive the items back, then new ones must be purchased for the next class and where does that money come from? I did find out however, that missing library books can be replaced through Amazon or another vendor at less than the price of new and that my library was very happy just to have that title back on the shelf. Being a Senior in high school does not give a student the right to "do whatever they want" . . . sometimes a wake up call of some kind is needed.

I see a lot of people calling the parents stupid and irresponsible, but do you really understand how many people are unemployed?? How many tradesmen (electricians, construction workers, drywallers, roofers, etc.) are unemployed right now? Just as an example one of the local electical unions has 300 men signed on their books that are unemployed and looking for work. So for many maybe it is paying for bills that help keep their children warm, clean, housed and fed that comes to a priority before school. A family of six on unemployment gets 1100 every two weeks, what bills can you pay with that? These men are not unemployed because they are lazy and do not want to work, they are unemployed because the economy is horrible right now. Good honest people want to pay their bills, and were doing so 4 years ago, now its not so easy.

a saba
You are to go to the school, sit down and have a discussion with someone. Find out the specifics of the fees and why you supposedly owe more than you thought. Maybe there is a mistake somewhere. Maybe a misunderstanding. I can't think of one school around here that charges $700 in fees other than private schools, so I would want the specifics. Is it multiple years that are owed? If it is multiple years, ask why this was not brought up in previous years so you could have amended it then.

Next be specific as to the financial hardship this would cause to pay that much at one time. Let them know you are willing to pay what you can on the 21st and will pay the rest when you can, if you actually owe more than you originally thought. But you will need to be specific as to why you cannot pay the amount owed all at once.

From there you ask about the options and what needs to be done so that your daughter can participate in the graduation ceremony. Once the actual amount is determined, ask about payment plans. Ask if a reduction in the amount is possible.

Having worked in a high school in the past, we were always willing to work with a parent who was experiencing financial hardship.

i totally disagree not letting a child walk down and receive their diploma,,,my daughter has worked so hard for this,,here she is to granduate in 2 weeks,,,and the fees that i thought were owed is 300 and made plans to pay this on the 21st of may,,she graduates on the 28th...and now today she gets the sheet saying we owe 700,,,there is no way i can come up with that in 2 weeks,,,,if i owe it,,it can be paid by the secon week in june,,,but not may 28th...and my heart and my daughters are broken,,,thinking she cannot perticipate in her graduation...what am i to do

Education is not free ----------- just look at your tax bill and the fact that it never goes down even if your property values do.

Most of you voted for the third high school that was not needed. If the referendums would not have been passed, you would have a little more money in your pocket to pay the extra fees.

It is sad that it may be tough on some, but not everyone can afford a Mercedes. Deal with it.

The schools recieve money from taxes paid in the school district. If a parent can not aford to pay bus fees, reg. fees the child should not suffer. Education is at least my understanding to be free. If a child wants to be in a sport etc, and has to pay a fee, so be it. But to deny a child the right to walk down and get his deploma because the parent or parents can't aford reg fees etc is crazy. The whole district shouldhide their heads in shame.......And holding back a deploma, crazy. The child earned it. Get a grip on it.
This is one of the reason we all pay taxes....Even ther retired people still pay school taxes on property etc........How much more does the school districts want from us? The teachers get paid well enough! They also have many days off during the school year!

In response to the query from Anonymous:

"What happen to the right to a free education?"

The education is free, but the text books, work books, paper used for handouts, and so forth, implements necessary to make that education effective (apart from the teacher) are not.

Additionally in Illinois until the age of 17 education is not a right, it is compulsory. A child that is repeatedly truant can be brought before a truancy judge and the parents charged and fined a substantial amount for failing to ensure the child attends school and classes regularly.

Regarding the policy of preventing Seniors from walking up to receive their diploma on graduation night, or attending the Prom due to these unpaid fee's, I disagree wholeheartedly with this policy. This contradicts the scope of parental responsibility defined by our state's laws to ensure their child's compulsory attendance at school, placing the responsibility on the child to discipline their parents, or be punished for their parents wrongdoing, or the child's own ineffectiveness at taking on a parental role of providing discipline.

While generally speaking it is the parents responsibility to put their child through school at least through High School, it is not necessarily always the parents that pay for their child's prom dresses or tux's or tickets, I've known many in High School who worked part time jobs and saved up so they could have the freedom to choose the dress of their dreams for that one special night, without worrying about having to compromise because someone else was paying for it.

I know that when the envelope arrived in the mail that included the school fee's for the years when my daughter was in school, it was mailed to the parents of my daughter, and the only thing she had to concern herself with was if there were any extra activities I needed to cover so she wouldn't miss out on them. That was my responsibility as her parent, not hers, and in my opinion something she shouldn't have to worry about. It's part of the "job" of being a parent, just like making sure they have food to eat, and clothes to wear, you provide for their education at least through graduating High School when they start the true transition into adulthood.

I myself remember back to that time of my life, by then my family was dirt poor by Naperville standards, when I was 14 we nearly lost my father, we were blessed that he survived but it left him permanently disabled, and back then the best job my mother could find only paid minimum wage. We knew we were poor by most others standards but we never even thought about any possibility we would not be able to afford to go to school. Despite it all my parents were always able to put enough away for school supplies for myself and my sisters and buy us one new outfit to start the new school year in. I was encouraged to take any classes I wanted and participate in any extra-curricular activities, and I never knew there were fee's associated with them, my parents never said a thing, we were kept oblivious of those things. I can say for myself that had I known, I might not have taken some of the more advanced courses that I did, as knowing what I know now, I'm sure they cost above average fee's and probably were a burden financially.

I got my first job at 14 washing dishes, from then I started buying my own clothes and helping with groceries, the summer I turned 15 I was still working that job, and took another job on my days off doing custodial work, during the school year I would work less hours, but maintained 2 jobs through my senior year of High School. During my "free" time, I worked at school activities, like serving popcorn at basketball games, or working the coat check stand, hoping to earn enough credits to be able to go on my senior class trip to Florida. I bought my own dress for my prom, I paid for my own cap and gown, I bought my own class ring, invitations to my graduation, and even just by the skin of my teeth was able to earn my place on the class trip for a vacation.

My point: Just as my parents did, I also never allowed my daughter to be concerned over school fee's. My parents didn't want me to sacrifice the education that inspired me. and settle for less because I was worried about the cost. While I can't say that children of the parents who are delinquent in paying their child's school fee's, are unaware of the situation, or have been kept oblivious of the financial aspect of this stage in their schooling for the same noble reason as motivated my parents, but it is possible that the students don't or didn't know. It's part of the "job" of being a parent, to provide your child to the best of your abilities, at least through High School, with the opportunity for education that inspires them so that even if you cannot afford to provide them with a higher education, the inspiration you provided them with, might help drive them to find a way. It is the child's job to take advantage of this time in their life and opportunity to learn and find their inspiration through this experience to grow to be the best at whoever they choose and whatever they choose to be.

Some have equated this policy with the consequences one suffers for not paying their credit card bill and having it blocked, or not paying their gas or electric bill and having the service turned off. But in reality there is no comparison. You can eventually pay off your credit card bill with effort, you can make up the late payment for your utility service and have it turned back on.

You can't fix things at a later date and get a do over, you don't get a second chance to graduate from High School with all those people you have grown with and celebrate the beginning of your lives crossing the threshold into adulthood.

The same with that Senior Prom, this is something that will only happen once in your life, you could try to get all the same people together later, and play the same music and decorate the same, but it won't be the same.

There is more to these years of school than just attending classes, and there is more to the graduation than just a diploma that is fairly worthless in obtaining a high paying job. Through those years of school, they are learning not only academics, they are learning about people and life, about friendships, negotiating for what they want instead of the early toddler rules of "if I want it, it's mine", they are learning about respect at various levels for others, they are learning about who they are, they are learning to live and get along in a world of different ideas and cultures and traditions. They are learning appropriate behavior, respect, that you don't have to like someone or agree with someone to respect that they are their own person just as you are. They are learning about responsibilities, about venturing into working for the things they want, and saving for the things they want, and appreciating the things they earn.

It is the passing from a major stage of life and for most security that you can never go back to, and moving forward as an adult spreading your wings and flying without a safety net, it's exhilarating, and frighting, and somewhat sad all at the same time.

What happen to the right to a free education?

If our realestate taxes were not so High (thank you 204 rip off artists) maybe the above problem would not exist as the parents would be able to pay these fees.

With the taxes that are paid, I wouldn't think there would be any fees other than the prom.


Our public schools have a legal system that will remove kids from class for their parents non-payment? I did not know this. This is not being expelled for non-payment, right Anonymous 8:54? Being expelled for parents non payment is a little more harsh than missing prom or a graduation ceremony, no? Please explain the laws that allow public schools to remove a child from class for parent's non-payment? A link to such info would also be great, thanks so much!

I bet if you asked a high school senior who is really in a position to miss prom or graduation because of their parent's lack of payment whether he or she preferred to miss prom and/or a graduation ceremony if their parents had not paid school fees as opposed to missing credits for second semester senior year, or whatever for non-payment...they may be mature enough to give an answer that might surprise you.

I believe that if you do not pay Comed, your service will be shut off unless you have a medical condition that requires electric service at home and that shut-off may be put off by government laws, government requirements? I'm not absolutely sure about this, but I believe that a home phone service may be the same. Anyone? Anyway, sometimes services get shut off for lack of payment, sometimes they will be temporarily allowed to continue...the world is a complex place. And nothing is ever fair to everyone all the time. I encourage my children to do as they should...am I a parent that raised kids by extortion? Heh...if so it worked, they are great.

Ok, so a piece of paper may be denied. But that is all the "diploma" is. It is not something that any college actually looks at to verify that someone has graduated. The transcript is worth something. The paper diploma is just that - a piece of paper. And high school one is especially worth nothing. The only diplomas I would care to see are the ones that show my doctor graduated from med school.

In my research I did not find one local school that withholds transcripts. And since we are talking about this as a local issue, then that is what matters.

Why is it extortion to withhold the diploma until fees are paid?

TO: By Anonymous on May 2, 2010 8:54 AM

Naperville and Nicor turn off your service if you don't pay the bill. How is this different?

"Diplomas are not denied. And transcripts will still be sent to colleges."

Your mileage may vary from one school district to another. Some school districts do deny both attendance at the graduation ceremony AND withhold the actual paper diploma until all fees are paid in full. Same thing with transcripts they won't send those either until fees are paid in full including the additional cost of sending the transcript.

"...-our public schools are legally required to have kids in class." Yes, and the same legal system provides mechanisms by which children can be removed from class, expelled, etc. The legal system can and should be used to settle debts to schools no differently than when one owes money to a bank or merchant.

"encouraging", "twisting their arm", etc. is against the law because it is legal extortion attempted to be disguised "under the color of law". Maybe I'm the odd person in this forum buy I don't expect or condone a unit of government to do anything illegal and the means to the end isn't always justified... regardless of intent.


So denying participation in the prom and the graduation ceremony is extortion and unfair to the students, but denying them an education is reasonable??????? Wow! I suppose, in your book, getting a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone is an example of Big Brother oppressing the little guy, but getting the death penalty for the same offense is perfectly okay?


Diplomas are not denied. And transcripts will still be sent to colleges. It is merely the act of walking at the graduation ceremony that is denied to those who have not paid their fees. And they are given the opportunity to take care of that in advance. If it truly is a financial issue for the family, the school will work with them or waive the fees.

To "off by a country mile" anonymous--our public schools are legally required to have kids in class. Parents don't pay? Then twist their arms with what tools are available to remind them that Johnny wants to go to prom and walk with his class. Do you think these parents haven't been reminded throughout the year to pay their fees? When my kids were in K-12, I thought there was no alternative but to pay their fees by registration. 9 months is plenty of time to pull funds together or apply for financial assistance, in my opinion. If the parents are too busy, stupid or otherwise occupied to pay their school fees by prom and graduation time, then the school has every right, in my opinion, to "encourage" them to do so. Perhaps the words they hear from their kids being put in a position to miss one or more activities will get the check book pulled out, or get them to have a conversation with the school as to why they haven't been able to pay the fees for 9 months. If their are difficult financial circumstances, then perhaps the prom tickets can be discounted for them, as well.

And the holding a lien against property or other legal tactics? How much does that cost to implement? My goodness, hold the prom ticket and graduation ceremony hostage, quicker, easier, cheaper and involves far less admin and government to achieve results. A child is part of the family unit, unfortunate if that family unit isn't the Cleavers, but children are always influenced by the circumstances of their family's ways and means, habits and customs--good or bad. Withholding prom or graduation may mean the child learns that responsible behavior, or lack thereof can create bad circumstances, but this does not equate child abuse, landing the child in a risky enough position to be removed from the family. Perhaps it's harsh, but life is harsh. Extortion? In my opinion, no. Pay the bill.

Good luck with getting me to feel your comment, stated as if it's every blogger's opinion will change my opinion. It is nothing more than that--your opinion. Just as mine is nothing more than my opinion.

Will someone please explain where diplomas are being denied? The only information I have seen said that delinquent students were being denied the chance to participate in the graduation ceremony.


Educate all of us, don't pay your property tax bill and report on the process as your furniture is put on the curb of the Deputies and your house is auctioned off. Much better.

By Anonymous on April 30, 2010 9:30 AM

From a basic point of fairness it doesn't seem right to penalize students for failure(s) of parents in terms of any financial liabilities they may have accrued.

Holding prom tickets or diplomas hostage smacks of blackmail and extortion. If the parents owe a unit of government money the unit of government has all kinds of better legal tools at their disposal including placing a lien against property, filing a lawsuit, and reporting the delinquency to the credit reporting agencies, turning the account over to a collection agency, etc. It would seem more appropriate to use legal rather than strong arm tactics that unfairly penalize the student.

What do you think of the policy?

OMG these people must be victims of the inequality caused by Capitalism. The school districts should charge all of the other students who paid their bills for the students who couldn't because they are victims. We're all in it together!

Do you agree with withholding things like prom or graduation from students because of unpaid fees?

Withholding prom or graduation from students will cause them irreparable damage and low self-esteem, nothing should ever be denied for any reason. If they don't graduate or earn good grades they will be denied entry to a college where a degree will automatically guarantee them a high paying job. This is how the system holds you down. For those not hired by the private companies the government needs to guarantee them a job when they graduate.

What does graduation really signify? That they have completed a system designed to make them effective workers for the owners of companies who will exploit their efforts and underpay them so the corporations and wealthy can make a profit.

Profit equals exploitation of the workers and customers who were overcharged.

All of the above is what are leaders in Washington are telling us.

Anne E,

Sorry, nice try with your analogy... but you were off by a country mile.

IF the school district is going to shut down service then that would be denying access to the main product the school district offers which is education and not just access to other supplemental activities such as prom or graduation.

Fact is that is how private and parochial schools handle it all the time... if you don't pay what you owe you don't get to attend class... and it really is as simple as that. Personally I don't have a problem with turning kids away from the classroom when an outstanding debt appears and keeping them away until the debt is resolved.

Previously I stated that poor administration fiscal techniques are allowing debt to accrue in the first place and the school board would be better off to simply eliminate such opportunities for the school district to find themselves in such a predicament. Let's find ways to encourage the school board and administration to be better managers. Let's nip these things in the bud and not let them linger and fester until they turn into sores like this.

However, when the school district continues to allow kids to attend class and complete all of the academic requirements to earn a diploma the kid is entitled to receive the diploma... they have earned it. When the school district threatens the kid with denial to attend graduation means they are really holding the diploma hostage and the threat of denial is nothing more than an attempt to extort money out of the kid or the family.

The school board can attempt to put lipstick on what they are doing by trying to make it seem right because they are a unit of government and people tend to think they have the "power" to do anything they want. Even the Hobbs Act recognizes that units of government and government officials are not immune to extortion under color of law and made such governmental action illegal. Anyone who gets threatened with denial of a diploma would have a good case for yet another lawsuit against our school district.

Again, Prom is a privilege not a right. The graduation ceremony is a privilege not a right. If they were not allowing someone to graduate then I would term it extortion. But that is not the case. The kid still graduates, just does not get the privilege of walking at the ceremony.

There are costs involved with both: dance tickets, clothing, cap and gown. If the family can pay those costs, then they can afford to pay their fees and should have paid them far in advance of these activities.

If I don't pay my credit card bill on time, my ability to use that card is shut down until the bill is paid. I can't use the card for anything, nothing for myself, nothing for my home and nothing for my children, whether they need it or deserve it, or whatever. This is the way the world works...no different than what the school is doing. The bill is sent to the family as a unit. Unfortunately, if the family member responsible for paying the bill does not pay it, service is shut down. Don't pay your electric bill, and service is shut down. For you, for your children, for anyone living under your roof. Extortion? Really?



"extortion - the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats."

Parents are legally responsible for their children. Threatening children to not to be able to attend their prom or receive their diploma sure does sound like extortion to me and if nothing else it clearly demonstrates that the school board and administration are not adverse to engaging in some good old fashioned bullying techniques.

Anonymous on April 30, 2010 9:30 AM,

I think you are turning this problem on it's head. There is already a system in place that does not inconvenience the "good, honest, ethical families." And it is certainly NOT blackmail or extortion to hold students AND their parents to account for money that they owe.


From a basic point of fairness it doesn't seem right to penalize students for failure(s) of parents in terms of any financial liabilities they may have accrued.

Holding prom tickets or diplomas hostage smacks of blackmail and extortion. If the parents owe a unit of government money the unit of government has all kinds of better legal tools at their disposal including placing a lien against property, filing a lawsuit, and reporting the delinquency to the credit reporting agencies, turning the account over to a collection agency, etc. It would seem more appropriate to use legal rather than strong arm tactics that unfairly penalize the student.

If anything, it would seem that the school districts are doing a poor job of planning and managing if it comes down to this every year right before graduation. This is really just one more example of administrators not knowing how to be effective and efficient.

A simple solution is good, old fashioned "cash on the barrel head" for all fees, activities, etc. so that there simply will not be any outstanding balances. Forget about the problems with credit card fees, bounced checks, etc. Cash is still king for keeping things u p front and simple. And if you don't have the cash, you don't get whatever it is... plain and simple... and learn to plan accordingly is the message to both students and parents. If you owe for a library book you don't get to use the library until the fine is paid... no whining, just learn to live with it and plan accordingly if you owe a fine or go use the public library instead.

Another solution would be to treat the library and other items that end up on outstanding balance sheets just like the cafeteria or an iPass account... no one gets to eat for free do they? Parents can simply be required to fund an upfront deposit against late or lost books. If the funds go to zero no books can be checked out until a minimum balance is restored. Same for uniforms, instruments, etc. Balances can be refunded at the end of the school year, carried over to the next school year, etc. with a final refund at graduation or transfer. While this is pretty foolproof the only real downside is that all of the good, honest, ethical families end up being inconvenienced because of a few dead-beat families who try to slip and slide out of accepting and dealing with their financial responsibilities.... and YES we know who you are... you aren't fooling anyone... and we don't want to see any of you get away without having to pay what you owe! Even a rat takes care of it's young!

Prom costs around here:

WV is $65/person this year according to the website.
NV is also $65/person.
NCHS is $110/couple
NNHS is $60/person

How about instead of giving teachers annual 6-7% pay raises and 6% salary boost over their last four years we cut those back and eliminate student fees. That is a radical thought.

how much does a prom ticket cost? if they can't pay their school fee how will they afford a prom ticket?

What other recourse does the school district have? If they allow a student to graduate and receive their diploma is there a method to run the unpaid balance through a collection agency? And if they do who pays for this? From the story it sounds like all of the local school districts are working with parents on a payment plan.

Many neighborhoods in Naperville have association fees. You cannot sell your home until these fees are paid up. Whether fees are right or wrong, this seems to be the only way to assure they are paid.

This policy was the same for my school in Arlington Heights back in 1976. In fact, as we were doing graduation practice during the morning of the seniors' last day of school, any seniors owing fees or library fines, etc. were announced over the PA system over and over again. Seriously, back in the day so long ago, when money bought a whole lot more..."John Doe, 75¢ to the library, please". We could not graduate until bills were paid. In college it was parking tickets, of course, that needed to be paid before a diploma was issued.

What's wrong with this? If there are financial difficulties, the parents or guardians should communicate privately with the school administration to work out a plan, or receive some extra help, depending upon circumstances. This is how its always been, as far as I remember, for anyone in a tight spot...talk to the principal. Now, if there is a large outstanding bill, of course it would not and should not be announced over the PA, but if John Doe and his 75¢ is holding up graduation practice and senior dismissal, he better very well get his butt to the library and pay his fine.

Prom is just another incentive to get parents to pay up...once again, talk to the office if there is a real problem.

To add...
Prom is also a privilege not a right. If a student can afford the ticket, the dress/tuxedo, etc for prom, then they can afford to pay their school fees.

This has been a policy at Waubonsie for years. Seniors receive a checklist that they have to take to different people/departments in the building that shows certain obligations are met - turning in textbooks, returning library books, fees paid, etc. They receive the checklist well in advance of graduation and have plenty of time to take care of any obligations before the ceremony occurs.

Personally, I don't have an issue with it. Most of us pay the school fees before the school year starts. Those who truly cannot afford them are given consideration and the school will work it out with them. But I can remember kids who were dressed in the best clothes, who had their own cars that mommy and daddy bought them, who had not paid their fees, or returned their books.

These are not prevented from graduating high school, they are merely prevented from attending the ceremony if they have not met their obligations. The ceremony is not a "right" - it's a privilege.

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