Jasper County parent: ‘unfair’ policy forces children to pay to graduate

One Jasper County parent says a $410 fee for her child to attend deficiency school is unfair.

In a story you’ll see ONLY ON 3, a Lowcountry parent is forced to pay-up, if she wants her child to pass the tenth grade. The Jasper County School District demands the woman pay hundreds of dollars for courses to make-up for absences, but the parent says this policy is unfair.

Joanne Fields could hardly believe the notice she received at the end of the school year, telling her to pay $410 for her child to attend deficiency school for having excessive absences over the school year. Fields says it feels like extortion.

“You cannot take her grades, because she didn’t have 410 dollars,” Fields says.

But that’s exactly what the notice demanded of Fields, the legal guardian of her niece Tyshawna. Because Tyshawna had missed 41 hours of classes, the district charged for deficiency school she needed in order to be promoted to eleventh grade.

“Tyshawna came home when they told her that, crying, sitting on my couch crying,” Fields says. “She is terrified…because Tyshawna tries so hard. She wanted to make it.”

The school district tells NEWS 3 it is their policy to always notify parents of a child missing class. However, Fields says the notice demanding she pay the $410 for classes was the first she received.

“If this is happening, I believe the school should contact me, and let’s go through the rules. Then, I could have stopped my child from being absent or tardy that many hours,” she says.

Tyshawna attended deficiency school, but still has not paid. Fields says they simply do not have the money to be able to afford the classes. Unless the fee is paid, the school will change her passing grades to failing.

“They were going to take her grades, and make them a failing grade. They were going to take the 92s and the 93s and turn them into 60s,” she says.

Fields believes this is wrong, and so does Jasper County Council Chairwoman Barbara Clark.

“I do not think that children should be charged, especially for public education. They’re [school district] supposed to be doing everything that they possibly can, to see that these children pass,” Clark says.

The state Department of Education says there can be a fee charged for deficiency school, as this policy is left to local districts. The district tells NEWS 3 the money goes toward paying teachers for their extra time, and for extra resources.

Without the $410 in Tyshawna’s case, the district withholds her transcripts and changes her grades to failing; she will repeat the tenth grade.

“There’s nothing else I can do. When August gets here, we go back to school, and that’s what we’ll have to go to,” Fields says.

County council Chairwoman Clark hopes a district policy change can be made with the upcoming school board election.

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