Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Chambers Family: In bed sick at school

When our oldest daughter was 11 she starting having debilitating headaches and I took her to the doctor over and over again only to receive the same diagnosis, allergies that caused terrible sinus infections. Her allergies would lead to sinus problems that would in return cause horrific headaches and weakness. When she started to develop ear infections, we took her to see an ENT who was concerned. He said kids this age don't usually develop chronic ear infections. He ordered a CAT scan of her head and found what he said was the worst case he had ever seen on Nasal polyps. Surgery would need to be done immediately to remove them. After the surgery the doctor said he had stopped counting after 100 polyps. Recovery time took awhile but she was eventually back to school and feeling quite better.

Unfortunately, that didn't last long. After a month or so her allergies returned in full force as well as the sinus problems. Cystic fibrosis testing was done but did not provide us with any answers. We spent the next 2 years taking her specialist after specialist. We went to ENT's, Pulmonologist, Allergist, even chiropractors. As you can imagine our daughter missed school often during these years, but the Millard schools did a fantastic job of working with us. Our daughter did well in school and we were happy with the arrangements we had made for her.

School was one of her favorite things, she is involved in band, student council, numerous after school activities. When she was Healthy she was full of life throwing herself into any afterschool club she could. When she was sick she would lay in bed in a dark room all day sleeping battling her headaches. On April of 2010 we received a letter from the Sarpy county attorney saying we would need to appear in court regarding her absences.

Being caught up in the juvenile court system has been a nightmare for our family, especially for our beautiful sweet daughter. Our daughter has always been a happy, sweet and shy kid but a lot of fun. The day we sat with her court appointed attorney and were told that the judge had decided to put our daughter on probation was devastating. My little girl turned to me and began to cry. She said, “Mom, what did I do wrong!”

My daughter is a naturally obedient child. She wants to know that she is being good, doing the right thing. This process is breaking her. I have watched in horror as my daughter’s innocence and carefree nature has been stripped away. This has changed her personality. That they had made her feel like a criminal and she has begun to doubt herself wondering it maybe she was a bad kid.

She was interviewed by a probation officer to get “her side of things” and we were made to stay in the waiting room even at our protest. We found out later that our daughter was made to urinate in a cup for a drug test during the meeting. I was enraged! We weren't even told this was going to happen. I feel violated!

Some state officials have said that the schools hold most of the power, that upon their recommendation these cases are handled. I don’t believe them. My school has been nothing but concerned about what is happening to us. My principal has tried to protect us. In my experience there is nothing anyone can do once you fall into the system. It just has to play out and if your child continues to be absent it makes it harder to get out of the system.

I cannot prevent my daughter’s illnesses and I cannot cure them. In an attempt to keep my daughter from having continued attendance issues, my principal is having me send her to school sick and they are keeping her in a sick room. When she is sick but has no fever she stays in her IEP's teacher's room. It is a smaller room that stays quiet most of the day. She works on her homework and takes little naps, she even eats lunch there. This way they can count her present, but she can rest. I am sick about it, why shouldn’t my sick daughter be able to be home with me in her own bed. What is wrong with this picture?

We have given up everything normal and natural about our lives, we have given up our privacy. We now send our daughter to school sick to be cared for by a school nurse instead of her stay-at-home mother. We are sharing our daughter’s complete medical history with any school or state official who wants to see it. I even had my school social worker come with me to one of my daughter’s doctor’s appointments in hopes that her testimony might help us.

It’s sickening to me that I feel compelled to do these things, but I just want this to end. I want my daughter to get back to the way she was before this awful law turned our lives upside down! I keep thinking that if I just cooperate they will let us go and leave us alone, but I don’t know anymore. I have very hateful feelings towards the people who wrote this law, and those who passed it, and especially those who continue to defend it.

I’ve heard several state officials and lawmakers refer to the law as a “work in progress”, and one senator said that though “he acknowledged there have been problems in a few cases” he believes the positive aspects of the law outweigh those. I literally want to cry. I can’t believe that they believe that my family is an acceptable casualty in their plans, that my innocent daughter is a guinea pig in their experiment and that doesn’t bother them.

The way I see it, some do-good government officials passed a law designed to take out of the hands of parents, principals, and even doctors the discretion over school attendance in an attempt to provide legal oversight in all cases with the justification of “preventing” delinquent behavior among certain groups of children. In the process they have usurped that natural rights of parents, thrown innocent children into the juvenile justice system, and disrupted the healthy and happy childhoods of children like my daughter. Their error is intolerable and unforgivable.

Jennifer Chambers
Millard School District
Omaha, NE


After some deep thought between my husband and I, we have reached a decision The state of Nebraska has drained us. Finacialy, Emotionaly, and Physicaly Maddie has been emotionaly scarred and now carries a nasty ulcer brought on by the stress. My MS has gone in overload with everything that has happeded. We have decided to leave the state..... My husband has agreed to transfer to North Carloina with his company. NC will do well for Maddie's allergies. We just need a fresh start. I want to personaly thank everyone for being there for us. Stephanie Smith Morgan you have been a shining light for us in such dark times....I can't express how thankfull I am to have had you here for us. Keep Fighting! Gold Bless


  1. hurts my heart to hear your story. I am sickened by this law as well. There is something lacking when laws take away natural ties to our children to watch over, take care of, encourage, and direct our children as they mature into adulthood. It is obvious that you are a responsible parent and very much aware of where your daughter is! I am so sad and sorry for how this law has affected your family. This law must be changed and natural rights restored!

  2. God Bless you Jennifer. Your daughter is in my prayers. I think you guys are awesome and strong. I really think I would've chosen to Homeschool after all of that!

  3. please consider asking friends and via this post for financial help to pay for a lawyer. your family needs one.

  4. I am so sorry to read this, and that you and your family is caught up in a world hell bent on practices that defy simple logic and human empathy. I'd take legal action on their discriminatory behaviors, in addition to the unauthorized drug test. This is insane.

  5. I am sorry to hear about your daughter's illness and situation. There is a simple solution to this. Implement a policy similar to the FMLA policy that employers have to abide by. Parents could apply for FMLA for their child's illness and if they have documented the illnesses correctly, the absences would be exempt from the policy. It is not that hard to figure out.

    Good luck to you!

  6. My understanding of this law is that it makes no difference as to whether it is excused or unexcused, medical records or not. The parents and the child are referred on. The law has gone to far.

  7. There is a SIMPLE solution to this, restore a parents right to judge what is an acceptable reason to miss school and trust parents to make these choices. This is done by simply restoring to the state statute the TRUE definition of truancy, which is to be absent without permission from a parent or principal.

  8. I think this law is ridiculous. I have an eleven year old daughter that sounds just like yours and I am sure that going through all of that would have scarred her as well. I did not even think of the effects such a law could potentially have. Thank you for sharing your story. I will now be more vocal in fighting against this law.

  9. Natalie BeesonDecember 16, 2011

    Jennifer, my heart and prayers go out to you and your family. I pray that your daughter turns a corner soon. As a mother, my heart goes out to you. You have enough on your plate worrying about the healthy and safety of your daughter...and to be categorized as truancy is unbelieveable.

  10. this is a very saddening and heartfelt story, my heart and prayers go out to you. Homeschool your child, you are a stay at home mom and have the ability to take your child out of this situation. as a mother who thought homeschooling was just a word and not a real thing to do i know it is intimidating to think this is a real choice, but it is a wonderful one. you are just as intelligent as any of the educators that are dealing with her and what you dont know you will learn. there are so many sources, online or otherwise and a huge network of support in the millard area for homeschoolers. your daughter is spending her child hood in solitary confinement because of this law and even with an amendment she might always hit the magical 20 day number and explainations and red tape will be something you have to go through yearly. good luck and i hope the situation has gotten better but if it hasnt there is a way that you can end the pain being thrust onto your child.

  11. In my personal conversations with Jennifer, I know her and her husband have spoken extensively about home schooling as an option, but this option is much more difficult in their case then it might be in yours or mine. Unfortunately, Jennifer suffers from MS and suffered a stroke several years ago that has made it more more difficult for her to take on an effort such as home school.

    I have tremendous respect and love for the freedom we have to home school our children if we choose, as does this lovely mother, but as I have come to know many of these families personally I have come to understand that this option is simply not an option for so many people.

    I hope that we all can work together as a state to preserve and protect the integrity of families whatever their situation. Whether they be home school families, public school families, or private school families. We should not tolerate a society that believes it is acceptable to forfeit the natural rights of parents when those parents enroll their children in a public school. If we tolerate this then we are as good as saying that we too believe it to be the case. We not only believe it but we support it with our tax dollars. This should be unacceptable to all parents and all Americans.

    Let's help all families and get this law fixed!!

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