Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dr. Lisa Whitcomb

I am a pediatrician in west Omaha. Although I agree with the purpose of the new truancy law, I am a little concerned about the way it is executed, and about the repercussions. I see many very good parents concerned and frightened by threatening letters sent from the school districts. I see parents sending their children to school ill because they're afraid they have missed too many days of school. This is concerning both for the child and their classmates that might be getting exposed to infectious diseases. I also see parents bringing children into my office just to get a note to excuse them from school for mild illnesses that would have otherwise have been managed at home.

My biggest concern is that I have seen good parents taken to court over what seem to me to be legitimate absences. I have one patient in particular who has been taken to court twice. Mom has also been threatened with CPS for the absences of her child, who has recurrent illnesses and does well in school despite his absences. This family has spent a lot of money, time, and emotional energy on a case that was ultimately dismissed. I have another family who has a severely handicapped child who was also threatened with going to court for multiple absences. 

I have written several letters for this child explaining his illness, despite the fact that it is the school which sends him home the majority of the time. Once again, this mom feels very threatened by the situation. Again, I agree with the importance of kids being in school. I see the current enforcement of the truancy laws as consuming excess money, time and emotional energy.

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