Special Investigation: CHA Still Wants Kids’ Report Cards

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Myra King, chairman of the tenants’ Central Advisory Council, telling CHA officials that their desire to have residents’ kids reports cards was “unfair and discriminatory” and that the she and other tenants would “refuse” to sign the release documents for CPS to turn them over to the CHA, during the public hearing on proposed amendments to the CHA Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy, at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, on March 29, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte


Tenant leaders are threatening to haul the Chicago Housing Authority into court as the agency continues to demand that parents turn over their kids’ school report cards. Robert Whitfield, the attorney representing resident leaders, is advising tenants that the CHA does not have the right to require them to turn over their report cards or face eviction.

“I find nothing in the CHA Residential Lease which would allow CHA and or CHA property managers to evict a resident who refused to provide school documents,” wrote Whitfield in a Sept. 29 e-mail to CHA General Counsel Scott Ammarell. “CHA now intends to impose yet another requirement that will not apply to any other children anywhere in the City of Chicago. And this is supposed to be consistent with CHA’s often stated goal of seeing that CHA residents are not treated differently from other Chicago citizens?”

Ammarell responded that the agency had previously demanded that tenants allow other agencies to get the report cards, at CHA’s discretion. Now the agency is seeking to get the report cards turned over directly to the agency.

“If a resident fails to provide this information upon request, that resident will be deemed to be in non-compliance with their lease and will be subject to eviction,” Ammarell wrote in his response to Whitfield. “This requirement was added years ago in order to battle the incidence of truancy, and the CHA stands by this requirement.”

Over one year ago, the CHA began demanding that tenants sign releases for public school officials to release their kids’ report cards to check up on their behavior and how often they attend school.

When Residents’ Journal first reported the issue this past June, CHA spokesperson Matthew Aguilar sent an email saying the agency was no longer seeking the tenants’ children’s report cards from school officials.
“As we have previously informed you, the CHA had proposed that residents consent to schools releasing grade and attendance information to the CHA for the purpose of assessing potential need for services. After conversations with various stakeholders, the CHA withdrew the proposal,” Aguilar wrote on June 6, 2011. You can read the report here:
http://wethepeoplemedia.org/investigative-reporting/special-investigation-cha-wanted-kids%e2%80%99-report-cards

But the new effort from the CHA is not sitting well with Whitfield, who has been challenging the CHA about this issue for over a year. In an Oct. 4 email to Myra King, president of the Central Advisory Council, the elected resident leadership, Whitfield wrote that federal officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would not issue an opinion on the issue, and added that he was considering filing suit against the CHA.

Later that day, Whitfield emailed all LAC presidents and all former LAC presidents a notice that he suggested they distribute at every public housing site, including all CHA Senior buildings. The notice recommends that tenants to refuse to turn over their kids’ report cards to the property managers.

“The CAC is of the opinion that CHA residents are not required to produce copies of school attendance records during the annual re-examination process, and may refuse to do so if requested,” the notice states.

CHA residents must ensure that their children comply with truancy laws of the State of Illinois. However, Whitfield does not believe that CHA has the authority to require CHA residents to produce school attendance records.

The notice asks that any tenants who refuse to turn over their children’s report cards and then receive a communication from the CHA that they are out of compliance with their leases immediately contact resident leaders “so legal assistance can be arranged to challenge that lease determination.”

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