Christmas Eve court summons 'harsh'
Hamilton mother-of-six Kaye Nonoa received an unexpected letter on Christmas Eve - a court summons from her son's former high school for unpaid fees.
This comes after he was banned from attending his school ball earlier in the year for having outstanding fees, despite being head boy.
Mrs Nonoa is upset that Melville High School is using such a forceful method to recover money she doesn't have.
The letter, handed to her by a plain-clothes woman at 7.30am on Tuesday, said the school was taking legal action to retrieve $1166.84 in sports and subject fees from 2011 to 2013 and $1133.50 in legal costs - $2300.34 total.
Her son, Johnboi, 18, finished school this year.
He was head boy, captain of the First XV rugby team, a member of the top basketball team and also took part in cultural activities.
The fees Melville High are seeking are for sports and specialist subjects like photography and food technology, not the voluntary school donation.
Mrs Nonoa has been on a widow's benefit for the past 10 years and said she paid off small amounts when she could afford it.
She has discussed the problem with the board of trustees and principal Clive Hamill.
"I've always said to them that I will be paying it. It's my responsibility and I will pay it when I can," she said.
"I make choices. Do I want to pay $10 on school fees this week or do I want to buy extra food? Those are the choices that I, along with a lot of other families in my situation, have to deal with."
The notice of claim said the school believes "there is no valid reason for non-payment".
Johnboi was also stopped from going to the school ball this year and had a private evening with his ball partner at home instead.
Mrs Nonoa said receiving the court summons the morning before Christmas was harsh as it was already a difficult time financially.
"They could have talked to me instead of sending it off to the courts," she said.
"I'm not out to defame the character of the school, not at all. I'm sticking up for moral justice, for support."
Mr Hamill said while the timing was unfortunate, tight budgets were leading more schools to use debt collectors to recover unpaid fees. He said legal action was taken against six families this year.
"It wasn't victimisation, it's just our current standard practice," he said.
"What we look for is a commitment to pay - an automatic payment or something of that nature. We've got parents who are paying as little as $5 a fortnight and we accept that."
Melville High is decile 4, which indicates that it is located in a below-average socio-economic area.
Mr Hamill said Johnboi's commitment to the school had been significant, but Mrs Nonoa had been unable to make regular payments to cover his fees.
Mrs Nonoa questioned why the school let Johnboi remain head boy and play sports when his fees hadn't been paid.
Mr Hamill said the new board of trustees had asked him to come up with proposals for what restrictions will be placed on students who have outstanding fees next year.