Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sen. Ashford's Truancy Fix Falls Short of Parents Expectations

Press Release

It is not the intent of Nebraska truancy law to cause heart ache for families whose children are sick or otherwise excused.

Parents ask, why then do children with excused absences need to be referred to law enforcement and fall under the jurisdiction of county attorneys?

Omaha, NE, February 21, 2012: Nebraska lawmakers and state officials have repeatedly said that it is not the intent of Nebraska’s truancy law to cause heartache for families whose children are sick or otherwise excused by school authorities. If state leaders are sincere in this assertion, I hope they will consider stories like this one from Millard mother, Martha Myles - a story that must be told!

Martha’s daughter entered Douglas County “truancy diversion” last year, despite the fact that her absences were due to serious illness. Martha felt pressured into the "voluntary" “truancy diversion” as her only option to avoid court proceedings. Their personal lives were probed and Martha and her daughter felt violated by the whole process. Martha has been working with doctors for years to diagnose what causes her daughter’s severe migraines and other related illnesses. She and her daughter have endured the added stress of being under the constant scrutiny and monitoring of law enforcement for the “excessive absenteeism” of her daughter.

At last week’s Truancy Q&A with Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, hosted by the Nebraska Family Forum, was told by Mr. Kleine that her experiences were due to inadequate staff and resources to deal with an overload of truancy cases last year. Whatever the reason for her daughter falling into the net meant to catch “truant” kids, she has been informed this week that her daughter will again be referred to the county attorney. (Read Martha’s Story here: http://www.nebraskafamilyforum.org/2012/01/myles-family-truancy-diversion-for-sick.html)

At the Truancy Q&A hosted by the Nebraska Family Forum, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine agreed with the idea that kids whose absences are excused should not have their names referred to his office for further investigation. Don Kleine is one of the many public officials who have promised that they have not taken – and will not take - action against students whose absences are excused to the satisfaction of school district policy. If it is true that state officials have no intention of proceeding in any case where the student’s absences are excused, then there is no need require a referral at 20 days in these cases, and the law should be amended to reflect that reality.

For this reason, parents associated with the Nebraska Family Forum continue to support an amendment that would ensure that students with excused absences NEVER fall under the jurisdiction of law enforcement. However, LB933 - the truancy fix being worked on by Sen. Ashford and the Judiciary Committee - still requires these cases be reviewed by county attorneys. Hopefully, Sen. Ashford and his committee will see the need to improve LB933, to prevent students like Martha Myles daughter from ever being referred to the county attorney. It is the position of the Nebraska Family Forum, which has worked closely with families affected by the law, that students whose absences are excused under school district policy should NEVER be referred to law enforcement.

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