Some Noble charter school students are “turning to suicide as a way out”

Katie Osgood at the BOE meeting. Substance photo by George Schmidt

Katie Osgood at the BOE meeting. Substance photo by George Schmidt

At the January Board of Education meeting, teacher Katie Osgood called out the Noble charter school network for its extreme discipline practices. Katie is a teacher at a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. Here’s part of what she shared with the BOE, as published in Substance newspaper:

I am here today as a concerned citizen and an educator. In my hospital, we are seeing a disturbing pattern among patients coming from the Noble St Charter School Network of schools. We’ve seen an alarming number of students being admitted to the hospital with depression, severe anxiety, and increasingly with actual suicide attempts all directly tied to these schools’ discipline, academic, and retention policies.

Over and over, we are hearing the same stories from students-stories of constant stress from overly strict discipline, exhaustion from unreasonable workloads, and the very real fear of repeating a school year regardless of academic progress or IEP status. These students report cultures of shaming and humiliation. They speak of feeling beaten down from constant punishment over the most minor infractions such as not coming to school with a belt or not looking a teacher in the eyes. Kids who struggle academically or have disabilities are especially vulnerable, but these schools refuse to change to meet their unique needs. Students come to us hopeless, in despair, because they feel they have NO CHOICE but to wake up every day and endure more long hours of the severity of Noble St. And some are turning to suicide as a way out.

It’s of critical importance that Katie’s story, which is actually the students’ story, is shared and repeated. Despite some negative publicity in the wake of PURE’s work with Chicago student group VOYCE and the Advancement Project in originally exposing these practices, Noble continues to grow, as do other charter networks that use the same or very similar techniques.

Read more about Noble’s secret sauce and oppression here.

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.
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