CHICAGO — A Chicago Public School principal threatened to hold students' report cards hostage unless parents agreed to fork over cash to pay for the school's air conditioning, the Sun-Times reported Thursday.
Eli Whitney Elementary School principal Jorge Ruiz sent a letter to parents on Aug. 29 asking for as much as $45 per family to pay for air conditioning in the school’s main building at 2815 S. Komensky in Little Village, the Sun-Times reported.
Ruiz reportedly asked for $20 for the first child; $15 for the second and $10 for a third.
A mother of a third-grader and a second-grader at the elementary school spoke up about the issue to the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday and asked board members to pay the fees, according to the Sun-Times. The mother, Elizabeth Nevarez, refused to pay, according to the paper.
Navarez said parents were being told by the principal and some staff that if they don't foot their portion of the bill by report card pickup day on Tuesday, their children’s report cards won’t be released, the Sun-Times reported.
The Sun-Times reprinted a portion of the letter Ruiz sent to parents: “The weather is getting hotter and hotter every year and we need to make sure that our students have a classroom with a suitable temperature to learn,” the letter read in English and Spanish. “You can choose to pay in monthly installments for your convenience. Thank you for your help in making Eli Whitney School classrooms a COOL environment for all of our students.”
In 2011-12, 96.8 percent of the prekindergarten-to-eighth grade students at Whitney were low-income, the paper reported.
CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said the school can't legally require such fees, and parents who ask for their money back will get a refund. She said a new letter will be sent to parents to inform them that they don't have to pay the costs, the Sun-Times reported.