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Montgomery County parents having to pay for damaged school electronics

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BISCOE, N.C. -- At True Worship Ministries in Biscoe, co-pastor Sherri Allgood tries to help families in need.

“We assist with light bills, maybe help with water or rent,” Allgood said.

But for the past week, Allgood says about half a dozen parents have called for a different kind of help.

“We've never had anyone to contact us and say, ‘Can you help with school fees?’ Like, never,” she said.

Allgood says she's been getting phone calls and Facebook messages from Montgomery County parents needing help paying off their child's school fees for damaged or lost devices like tablets or laptops.

Devices given to students by the school district which they're required to use in class.

“Mistakes happen,” said Allgood, who also used to be a teacher with Montgomery County Schools for 16 years.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade whose fees aren't paid off can't take part in end-of-year activities like award ceremonies, field day and walking across stage at graduation.

“We cannot hold them accountable for poverty,” Allgood said.

Dale Ellis, the superintendent for Montgomery County Schools, says the goal is to collect repair fees for devices that can cost thousands of dollars.

This is part of a statement Ellis sent to FOX8:

“We are very fortunate to have received a federal grant of almost $3 million to be able to provide a 1:1 initiative for our students. We feel that having a device that the student can take home throughout the year provides a tremendous advantage both now and in the future. While some parents may feel this is punishment, we feel we are protecting a valuable investment made for the benefit of their child for future use. To continue to offer a 1:1 initiative for our students, we must protect that investment.”

Ellis says the school district's technology handbook, given out and signed by parents at the start of the school year, states that students or parents may be charged up to $100 for the first repair.

But even so, Allgood says for some, it's just too much.

“We have families that are in distress and are disadvantaged,” Allgood said. “If we're going to protect anyone, we have to protect our students.”