Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hall Family: Branded an unfit parent

Written by: Stephanie Morgan, Nebraska Family Forum Moderator

Lucy Hall, whose daughter attends Clark Middle School in Lincoln, entered a truancy diversion program under threat of prosecution. She has lived the worst nightmare of every parent. She has been treated as an unfit parent because her honor roll student suffers from severe fall allergies that cause her to miss school often during that season. Under threat from a judge that her child could be removed from her home, she has been required to entertain a social worker from Omni Behavioral Health weekly – in her home – among other demeaning, court-mandated interventions to “rehabilitate” her daughter, who is loved by her teachers and peers and has not had a behavioral issue at school in her life.

She was told the program would end at the conclusion of the school year but instead required she meet throughout the summer with other “truant” teens, some of which are truly troubled youth, in order that she develop bonds with other students who suffer from excessive absenteeism.

The state mandated interventions, the condescending attitudes of the social workers, lawyers, and judges, and the humiliation her daughter has suffered are intolerable. Lucy sought legal counsel because of the threatening tactics of those tasked with “helping” her daughter to recover from her excessive absenteeism. After going public with her story, which took a great deal of courage, she felt even more vulnerable and her family began discussing a move back to Missouri in order to protect themselves and their daughter.

One day in the middle of this nightmare, I inquired after her well being and received these emotional words from this discouraged mother, “I have been in a sort of fog the past few days. My mind has just been swimming with so many things to say that I don’t know how to begin! I am angry.....I am sad.....I am heartbroken and really very beaten down at this point. I am discouraged at how very few people know about what is going on or even care about it…It saddens me how few are interested in standing up for what is right.”

In the end, the Hall family decided to see it through and tolerate the “truancy diversion” program. In order to be released from the program and to ensure that they never again fall into the system, they have been sending their daughter to school with migraines. It is difficult for their daughter to function at school when she is sick but she is fully aware of the alternative and will do just about anything to avoid it. She continues to get good grades and hopes to be able to finish high school without incident.

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2011 Update:

We have put up with the program and I must say thankfully we are no longer enduring the stress that this put on our family. I honestly have to say that once it was all over with I just wanted to put it behind us and go on with life but I know in doing so I would not be doing my family or anyone else for that matter any favors.

My youngest son has an IEP and is struggling with more issues than I have time to list here....being that my daughter was swept up in this Truancy sham last school year I am terrified that Steven will suffer the same fate should I let him stay home when hes not feeling well. I have a meeting with his principle next week to discuss issues I am concerned with. The last thing I want to bring into his already rocky education is a truancy issue. I pray they just leave us alone.

Lucy Hall
Lincoln Public Schools
Lincoln, NE

7 comments:

  1. Lucy's story in the OWH is what brought me to this website. Truly horrifying. Thank you so much for sharing. Best of luck to Lucy and her daughter.

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  2. The rule in LPS is that students cannot miss more than 20 school days. That is a whole month of school. Considering that the school year lasts nine months if a child is absent 20 days that means the child is missing 1 out of every 9 days. That will have a significant impact on the education of the child. If the girl gets straight A's missing that many days imagine what she could do if she was at school the full year. Not to mention how is the girl going to do when she goes to college or gets a job and misses that many days. As parents it is our job to help our kids become productive responsible adults.

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    Replies
    1. Brenda VosikMarch 26, 2012

      @ Anonymous posted March 26. I'm wondering if you missed the part that this child was absent because she was seriously ill? Sick, not skipping school. Her parents were caring for her health, not being irresponsible. You must be one of those lucky parents who doesn't have sick kids and who has never been threatened with putting your children in foster care because of their sickness. You are very fortunate! Please don't judge families who don't have the same good fortune as you.

      Secondly, your comment "imagine what she could do if she was at school the full year" doesn't make sense to me. Are you saying she could have gotten BETTER than straight A's if only she was sitting at her school desk those 20 days? I'm not sure how that's possible; please explain.

      Finally, I've noticed that pretty much everyone who makes judgmental comments about parents and sick kids on this blog does so anonymously. Just an observation...

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  3. How contrived?? So, by your logic, even though this child's absences from school are caused by medical conditions, and even though the child keeps good grades in spite of missing school, that's not enough for you.

    According to you, the family should be terrorized by state workers, judges, and county attorneys for the mere fact she is absent - regardless of the circumstances.

    That thinking is simply intriguing to me. Shaping arguments of support for a harmful law to fit what you want it to be, not what the reality calls for is simply twisted. I don't know what else to say.

    I hope the loving Hall family with their Honor Roll daughter doesn't read this dribble. I think they've already endured enough. Who thinks this way???

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  4. To Anonymous: How much better can she do than straight A's???? This state ranks #2 for removal of children from their homes for abuse/neglect and yet you apparently want the state to strive to be #1 in that category as well. The truancy law will and is being used for threats of removal from the home. How do you see this as being beneficial to any child? Yanking a child from their home cannot have a positive impact on their education in any way, shape or form.

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  5. Cathie WoelfelApril 10, 2012

    Dear Anonymous,

    My name is Cathie and I have been best friends with Lucy and her entire family for the last 25 years. I have known Shannon since birth. Shannon has ALWAYS been an excellent student. What this article didn't mention is that while allergies are a major component in Shannon's life, it isn't really what caused her to be sick. Her allergies flare up, then comes the bronchitis and asthma attacks. After fighting with a constant barrage of these illnesses her immune system is pretty worn down. Then comes on Strep, Colds, the flu and I do believe last year she had Mono. So you can imagine how much she missed last year. Most years she doesn't miss as much but she ALWAYS and I do mean EVERY YEAR since she was a baby has problems at the same time with bronchitis. Her parents took the correct precautions and kept her home from school when she was sick, just like every other parent. Somehow I don't think it was wrong for her not to go to school when she had two EXTREMELY contagious infections, do you? Yet, somehow through it all Shannon not only kept up with her school work but maintained straight A's. That in of itself, is quite a feat in my opinion. Trust me when I tell you that she would've preferred to go to school instead of being completely miserable. Shannon loves school. She loves to learn. It is cool to watch her because she truly enjoys learning new things. She has a heart of gold and always has an eye out for the underdog. She truly is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Out of all of Lucy's children and mine, I truly don't worry about what type of adult Shannon will grow up to be. She is one smart cookie and while she isn't perfect and does make mistakes like everyone does. She learns from them, holds herself accountable for her mistakes and moves on. She is an upstanding, hard-working, loyal, honest, young woman. She knows right from wrong and doesn't hesitate to stand up for what she believes in, even if she is standing alone. How many teenagers can you say that about? It is easy to say things and be critical while remaining anonymous as you have shown. But take a look at my friend and her family. It would've been soooo much easier on the entire family if they had just swallowed the pill that was being forced down their throats. Like the article said they could've moved back to Missouri. I would've loved it as I now live in Kansas. The entire family has friends and family here that would've welcomed them with open arms. Instead they chose to dig their feet in and speak out. Shannon was asked her opinion on this and if she wanted to fight it or leave it and she said to stay and fight it. What this program did was make life harder for Shannon. It left a mark on her record. Now, she goes to school, even if she should be at home. I'm sure she is learning loads when the world is revolving to fast, it hurts to open your eyes and somebody cranked up the volume on everything. I'm sure she is able to follow the lesson and interact when she is running a fever. I'm sure other parents will appreciate it when she comes to school with an illness that is contagious so their kids can get sick too. Do you get the picture yet? How about next time you want to criticize someone, you at least have the courage to stand up, make your voice heard and take the recognition for your opinion. You are entitled to have one, you have the right to speak and let your voice be heard. At least have as much courage as this now 16 yr old young woman has and take the credit for what you believe in.

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    Replies
    1. Brenda VosikApril 10, 2012

      Cathie - well said! Thank you for speaking up.

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