January 4, 2012
Dear Senator Ashford:
I am attaching an Op-Ed piece from the December 21st Omaha World-Herald. The writer refers to Maddie Chambers, a 13-year-old girl who personifies the collateral damage resulting from LB 800 and LB 463. I’m sure you know Maddie’s story and you must be familiar with the many other families who are suffering as a result of this overreaching legislation.
After Maddie’s story was aired on Omaha’s Fox 42 on December 20th, your voice insisting that the truancy law is working followed her sweet voice pleading with authorities to just leave her alone.
Senator Ashford, each time you insist that your legislation is not faulty, you look a little more out of touch, a little more hard-hearted, and a little more foolish.
And now, instead of fixing this faulty law, you are blaming the school districts for the way it has been enforced, stating that they have always been responsible for discerning excused and unexcused absences, that there’s nothing in the law that changes that and therefore, the new law is working.
That makes absolutely no sense to me. If indeed nothing has changed, then why has there been an 1180% increase in truancy filings from 2008-09 to now? Why have so many families been negatively affected? Why are school districts telling parents that they are only following the law—your law? Blaming the schools is completely illogical and we parents aren’t buying it. The school districts didn’t just suddenly, randomly, out of the blue begin sending threatening letters to sick children after five absences and start involving law enforcement after ten (or even sooner). Their actions are a direct result of the law that you wrote. Please stop blaming the schools; this one’s on you and Nebraska parents know it.
Parents are angry--they are angry with you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this issue is going to fade away, that we’re going to eventually settle down and shut up, that we’ll finally get used to this new “normal”, the nanny state. If this law is not fixed to restore the true definition of truancy (absent without permission), I can guarantee you will still be hearing from angry parents the next time you try to run for elective office. You have taken away our natural rights to make decisions for our own children, and we are not going to let go of this issue until the problem is fixed. Your legislation has caused honest, law-abiding Nebraska citizens to be treated like criminals. You have thrown thousands of children, many of them sick, into the clutches of the juvenile justice system and our failed DHHS. You have forced hundreds of Nebraska families into financial hardship due to attorney fees spent to defend children whose only “crime” was illness. We will not stand for it and we will not be quiet.
I’m sure you didn’t intend for any of this to happen. I’m sure it was not your intent to hurt ten children for every one child that has been helped, but that’s what has happened. Even according to your own website (also attached), your original intent was different from the end result. So why not just call a spade a spade and acknowledge that your plan didn’t work the way you wanted it to?
Senator, we all make mistakes, and this time you made a big one. It’s time to step up, admit it, and fix it.