Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guidelines for Writing State and Local Officials

Form letters are easy, but not effective. So instead of a form letter, I'm providing a list of the major problems with Nebraska's new truancy law and the GOALS Initiative for your reference. Feel free to include any or all of these points as you feel inclined, but put it in your own words.

Please talk to all of your neighbors and friends, encourage as many as you can to get involved with this issue. Please refer them to the blog if they would like to study the issue further. There is a great overview in the talking points post on this law.

Here are some tips to follow in writing your email:

1. Include an identifier that lets the reader know right away what it’s about, such as “Please oppose the Memorandum of Understanding” or “Amend Nebraska's Truancy Law and restore parental authority” or “Major Problems with Nebraska's school attendance law and subsequent policies” or some variation thereof.

2. Copy your email to your own senator (find your senator here:

3. Begin with Dear, _____________, be sure to use their full name and title.

4. Include, “Please include this in the public record” if you would like for it to be included in the testimony for the hearing or official board meeting. It won’t be read aloud at the hearing; it will be included in each officials files so they will read it.

5. Keep it short, 1-2 paragraphs. They just need the major points of your concern.

6. If you have a personal story that illustrates why this is a problem, include a short telling of that story, about 500 or 600 words.

7. Include your name, address, and email address in your closing, as well as your phone number, if you like.


Nebraska’s New Attendance Law diminishes the natural rights of parents and endangers the integrity and freedom of Nebraska families in these basic ways:

1. Changed the definition of a “truant” to include excused absences.
2. Created a new classification of delinquent behavior called, “excessive absenteeism”
3. Added broad prosecutorial powers to the county attorney to get involved at any stage of the process.
4. Created the GOALS Initiative which is a system for school districts to refer students to state agencies including CPS before the student has missed twenty days of school.


Here's how it works in a nutshell:

1) We have a compulsory education law

2) This makes it necessary for the state to have a compulsory attendance law, which was rewritten in the 2010 legislative session and passed as LB800. This law stripped the classic definition of truancy out and included all absences for the criminal statute. In addition it created a whole new class of delinquent behavior called "excessive absenteeism" that requires schools to intervene early, and added a broad prosecutorial power to the law that allows the county attorney to prosecute at any stage of the process.

3) In the 2011 legislative session additions to the "attendance" law were added with the passage of LB463; this provided the state with further power over family life by allowing schools to refer students to the GOALS team, glorified CPS, well before a student has 20 absences. This combined with the broad prosecutorial power to the county attorney has to prosecute at any stage of the process is used as a "hammer" (as Judge Crnkovich and others have called it) to press parents to enter the "family service agreements" set up by these agencies or face prosecution and possible removal of their child from their home.

4) The only small protection provided families came about because of NFPF efforts to combat the law in 2011. At our insistence a caveat was added to the law that guaranteed that students wouldn't be referred to "GOALS" until they had five unexcused absences in one year. This protection was significantly diminished in Aug of 2011 when many West side school districts removed many reasonable grounds for excused absences from their district policies making it easier for kids to accrue unexcused absences and further diminishing the discretion of parents over the school attendance of their child.



It is our goal to preserve the function of the law which seeks to prevent habitual truancy and failure in school while protecting Nebraska families from government over-reach and undue scrutiny by state authorities. These proposals will preserve the original intent of the law while restoring the classic definition of truancy, protecting the natural rights of families, and providing needed interventions with "at-risk" youth.

1.) Make a clear distinction between the process by which schools handle "excessive absenteeism", the missing of school excessively with excuse; and how the state addresses "truancy", the missing of school without excuse.

2.) Leave the GOALS team in place in the Omaha metro, but as the beginnings of a more effective "Truancy Mentor" program, similar to Memphis, TN D.A. Truancy Mentor Program. Tennessee set the threshold for a "truant" at five unexcused days in one quarter, at which point they were referred to the D.A. for and were encouraged to enter the D.A. Mentor Program. There are similarities between their mentor program and our GOALS program. Both programs make use of community partners, faith based organizations, and a variety of services to stop the "truant" behavior (remember this is being absent without excuse).

3.) This plan would focus on law enforcement tracking unexcused absences and schools tracking other kinds of "problematic" absences.

No comments:

Post a Comment