Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Best Interest of My Children

Dear Nebraska Senators,

My name is Christine Bates. I am the mother of three school age children that are enrolled in Millard Schools in Omaha, Nebraska. Both my husband and I are VERY concerned about the truancy law passed last year (LB 800) and the expansion of that law before the legislature now (LB 463). I just received “the letter” because my children have missed school. From what I have read, the intent of the law is to improve educational outcomes by implementing policies that require children to be in school. My 7th grade daughter is a straight A student, 2 years ahead in Math and in honors English. Earlier this year she took the ACT (special invite from Duke University) and scored a 28, which is amazing. This is a higher score than most 11th graders, let alone a 12 year old 7th grader. In no way are my 3 children falling behind in any subject, and these are the kinds of kids who will get caught in the wide net cast by these laws.

All three of my children are very good students and thankfully don’t get sick very often. However, when they are ill, I want them to stay home to get better. I don’t think it is good practice to send your child to school sick for any reason. It endangers children in two ways, the first; a sick child attending school will take much longer to recover and second; students are then exposed to more germs and illness, because of the other sick children being at school. The fear of being prosecuted or coming under scrutiny from Dept of Family Service has caused me AND all of my friends to change the way we parent our children. There have been at least 5 or 6 times I sent my children to school when it would have been in their BEST interest to stay home. In fact there have been 2 or 3 times, I sent them to school sick when later in the day I received a call from the school nurse to pick them up because they were ill. I only sent them to school because of the new truancy law and the letters the school sends home telling us that the county attorney will be notified.

I also believe that it is in the best interest of the child to allow parents to be parents and make decisions for the family unit. There are times when my family has opportunities throughout the community or even a family gathering that would require the child to miss school. Education and becoming a well rounded individual just doesn’t come from being at school. I believe, and there are studies that prove children learn are greatly benefited by having hands on experiences, like museums, cultural events, speaking and spending time with our elders, learning from them, traveling and having family time.

My family just had an amazing opportunity to travel to Utah for Spring Break. We were there to visit family, attend a family wedding, witness the birth of a new nephew, attend a religious conference which the children were exposed to uplifting messages, attend a museum of paintings from the 1800’s, visit a national park and we took a tour of a humanitarian center to learn how we can better serve in our community to help those in need. These were experiences that will help my children become upstanding citizens and it will add to their education. Sadly I received “the letter” because of this opportunity I wanted my children to have.

Children are most beloved and connected to their parents and most parents make decitions with their child's best interest in mind. I am very sad that we are becoming a country where parenting is micro-managed by the government, where parents live in fear of a wrong step lest they be reported to DCFS. If I choose to have my child out of school, that is MY CHOICE, I am their parent and I expect the school to trust my judgement especially when my child is thriving in life. When my children miss a day due to illness, I call the school and if possible get their work so they can do it at home and if we must wait until they are well, they quickly finish up the work missed by going in early, staying late or missing recess to finish the missed assignment. If we know in advance they will be out of school, we ask for the assignments to do while they are gone and again if necessary stay after or come in early to get the assignments done. We have never needed the supervision of school administrators to do what is best for our kids.

I think public school is the best way to educate my children because of the quality scholastic and social learning opportunities. It is my desire to have my children continue the excellent education they are receiving in the Millard public schools. However I am concerned enough about the effects of the new truancy law on my family that if LB 463 passes I may consider home schooling as an option to preserve our flexibility and quality family life.

The freedoms we enjoy are among my greatest blessings and with each piece of freedom we lose my heart breaks. Without freedom to raise our families after the dictates of our own conscience we have no hope of raising our children to be strong people of character. Please help us repeal the parts of LB 800 that took away my right to excuse my child from school and in the very least stop the expansion of this truancy law in LB 463.

Christine Bates
Omaha, Nebraska

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