A network of Chicago’s predominantly Black charter schools has policies so strict that some menstruating girls are bleeding through their pants for lack of permitted bathroom breaks, an NPR affiliate reported on Monday.
In early April, NPR Illinois outlined the “dehumanizing” disciplinary practices at the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Teachers and students subsequently reported other practices, including strictly limited bathroom visits.
“We have [bathroom] escorts, and they rarely come so we end up walking out [of class] and that gets us in trouble,” an anonymous student texted to an NPR reporter. “But who wants to walk around knowing there’s blood on them? It can still stain the seats. They just need to be more understanding.”
Feminine hygiene products can leak if they aren’t changed every few hours. Tampons that aren’t changed regularly can cause toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening type of bacterial infection.
Rather than change the policy, Noble Network of Charter Schools has carved out an exemption in the dress code so menstruating students can tie their school sweatshirts around their waists, NPR reported. An email to staff members names the girls who are exempt from the dress code so they don’t garner demerits.
Students receive automatic detention after four demerits in a two-week period and have to pay $140 for a “character development” course after 13 such detentions, according to NPR’s first report.
One teacher told NPR that the school is disconnected from its predominately Black student body, and students sometimes resist the stringent policies.
“One student says it best, ‘When you treat us like animals, what do you think we are gonna act like?’” the teacher told NPR anonymously, for fear of retaliation.
Constance Jones Brewer, president of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, sent an email to staff after the initial NPR report, characterizing parts of the story as “exaggerated or plainly false.”
“I’ve seen how our leaders and staff continue to break new ground, push each other’s thinking, and improve the Noble experience every year,” Brewer stated in the email. “So, while I acknowledge our imperfections, I also celebrate our willingness and flexibility to hold each other accountable and get better. And I just don’t see the Noble that I know and love reflected in this article.”
The Noble Network of Charter Schools did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.