MUSKEGON, Mich. — Imagine watching your child studying and working hard in school for years, only to learn a technicality may prevent them from formally graduating alongside their peers.
More or less the reality in which a Muskegon mom found herself this week.
She said she learned only several weeks prior to the big day that her son owed nearly a thousand dollars in fees and as a result, wouldn't receive his diploma.
Though the strategy of withholding a diploma to exact unpaid fees appeared somewhat common practice, Alesha Clark-Eure takes issues with how little time she said they were initially given to pay as well as how far back fees had been assessed.
The Muskegon Public Schools superintendent, she related, had informed the family as of Tuesday morning that the issue would be resolved, though the promised solution remained unclear at the time of publication.
The ordeal, Clark-Eure related, prompted a host of worries, including for other families, unable to pay and hence, unable to celebrate the milestone.
“He worked really hard,” she said of her son Kalieb, a Muskegon High School senior. “For them to throw this roadblock and say, oh, well, we know he worked hard, but he can't graduate because he owes Chromebook fees that we never told you about.”
Clark-Eure said she learned of the bulging balance only a few days earlier when her son, a would-be graduating senior showed her a message he received on May 8 regarding an incomplete requirement: unpaid fees.
“This is essentially a bill that had been accumulating,” we asked.
"Accumulating since middle school,” she responded.
The total came to $715, according to a copy of the invoice viewed by 13OYS. Clark-Eure signaled she was aware of several other families with still larger sums to pay.
“A lot of parents in Muskegon County and in the Muskegon Public School district don't make the best of money,” she noted. “A lot of them are at or below the poverty level. So to spring something like this on a parent a week and a half before graduation, and actually punish the kids for something that they worked really hard for--it's not fair to either party.”
The district, she asserted, should have provided MPS families with periodic updates, allowing budgets room to stretch and rendering the balance more manageable over time.
“Not let it all accumulate up until, ‘surprise, the week before graduation, your kid can't graduate,’” Clark-Eure related.
Administrators, she said, had agreed to a payment plan ahead of the May 24 graduation ceremony and would allow Kalieb to walk alongside his classmates.
Clark-Eure was also told, she noted, that her son wouldn’t be receiving an actual diploma to show for his achievements until the balance had been paid off.
“It is a big moment in his life and my son is autistic, so he worked very hard for this diploma, very hard. We worked hard,” she said. “I don't want this to happen to anybody else's child.”
13 OYS reached out to the superintendent's office for clarification but had yet to hear back at the time of publication.
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