$810,000 in damage to school-issued electronic devices, Palm Beach County officials say

Families responsible for paying $98,000, but only $5,000 has been collected
The Palm Beach County School Board meets on April 7, 2021.jpg
Posted at 10:28 AM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 11:15:44-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County is one step closer to a new policy holding families responsible if a student's school-issued laptop is damaged, lost, or stolen.

The school board approved the policy on Wednesday night, setting it up for adoption next month.

The district's chief financial officer revealed there's been close to $1 million in damage -- about $810,000 to be exact -- to electronic devices since the school district started issuing them last spring.

Some of that damage was covered under warranty, so about $98,000 has been passed on to families.

However, the school district has only been able to recoup about $5,000 so far.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke also said the district has about an 8% breakage rate for the electronics, which is higher than the national average of 6%.

Board members don't want to force families to pay if they can't afford it, but also want to make sure kids understand there are consequences for not taking care of school property.

"I don't want to take food out of family's mouth to fix a computer, but there are a whole heck of a lot of families out there who can afford to fix their kids' mistakes," said School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri. "If they don't hold their kids responsible, then we need to hold them responsible."

Principals would have some discretion depending on the circumstances and how the item was damaged.

The district spent more than $20 million at the start of the school year to make sure every student had a laptop who needed one, whether for distance learning or in the classroom.

The board also discussed providing more education to students about how to take care of their computers properly.