Saturday, February 25, 2012

Truancy or Child Neglect, Which Laws Are We Talking About?

ABC Channel 8 in Lincoln reported on the truancy law and interviewed Beth Meyer, who fought for 9 months in court in her daughter's “truancy” case, despite the fact that all her daughter's absences were medically excused. Her daughter has suffered significantly under the law. She has gone from an A/B student to failing. Her self-confidence has been destroyed! A child with excused absences is now considered a TRUANT under Nebraska Law! Is that acceptable to our state? It certainly is to our governor, lawmakers, educators, and law enforcement.

The Nebraska Family Forum and concerned parents are asking for the legislature to amend the law so that kids with excused absences NEVER fall under the jurisdiction of law enforcement. Sen. Brad Ashford, whose legislation rewrote Nebraska truancy law in 2010, "says that’s not possible because the state needs to have safe guards in place for kids who are abused or neglected.”

Now we get to the real motivation behind Nebraska's approach to truancy. How else can you justify classifying kids who play by the rules as truants? This has been the only reason the state could justify this law. There is no need to refer students with excused absences to law enforcement, unless the state intends to investigate every case in order to determine if there is some “abuse or neglect” in the home.

For this reason, the NFF has called this law a gateway law, a gateway to move families into the Nebraska CPS system, and further burden a very troubled system. Nebraska takes kids from their homes at the second highest rate in the U.S., and kids have been made wards of the state using the state's new truancy law as the vehicle. Yet, Nebraska lawmakers continue to brush off the fears of parents as irrational and ask Nebraska parents to "trust the good-old Nebraska common sense of state officials".

It has been the position of the NFF that the number of children who are seriously abused or neglected by the willful thwarting of their education by their parents is very small. It is so small that it is an intolerable overreach of government to cast a net over all Nebraskan families - under the guise of preventing “truancy” - and then use that law as a vehicle to discover the remote cases of abuse and neglect within families. The innocent children and families who have suffered as a result are unacceptable casualties in this effort.

The issue of child neglect and abuse, and the issue of truancy as defined by the US Department of Justice (as well as Sen. Ashford’s own web page) are very different issues and should be handled in different legal ways. If a parent is willfully thwarting their child’s education in such a way that it could be defined as “child abuse or neglect”, then there are laws in place to deal with these parents. In such cases, schools already have the authority and the statutory responsibility to report parents for child abuse and neglect. It certainly is not necessary to use a “truancy law”, which deals with a totally different legal class, to root out child abuse.

Nebraska can and should establish a traditional truancy law (as the vast majority of states in the US) and define truancy as “unexcused” absences. Sen. Ashford's website says, "One of the first signs that can predict a path of trouble for many youth is their absence from school (other than for parent-excused absences and illness)". The NFF agrees whole-heartedly ! So let's focus on helping those kids who are absent without excuse.

If a child’s absences are excused under their own school district policy they should NEVER be referred to law enforcement for “truancy”. The media needs to get it right: “truancy” and being absent should not be the same thing in a court of law! They cannot continue to report that “truancy” is down in Nebraska since the passage of the 2010 law, while calling all children who miss twenty days of school "TRUANT" regardless of the cause. These reports feed the misconceptions about this extremely flawed law!

The NFF supports a simple and common sense amendment to the law, to prevent kids with excused absences from falling under the jurisdiction of law enforcement. This is not ground-breaking radical reform. This is good-old Nebraska common sense! We ask the Legislature and the Governor to demonstrate wisdom and common sense by protecting kids with excused absences from legal investigation. We hope they will put a stop to this radical and unbending commitment to redefine “truancy” in our state, reject the attitude of mistrusting all parents, and restore the attitude of trust toward the common sense ability of parents to work with their schools.

View ABC story here:


  1. Yes, indeed. It would appear as though - whether Sen. Ashford intended to let that slip or not - the real agenda has finally been exposed.

    The new over-reaching attendance law was passed by using misleading information and carefully contrived rhetoric that appealed to our natural emotions as they relate to education and actual truancy and then ferociously defended even when more and more cases of harmed children and families come forward to tell of how this law is victimizing law-abiding citizens because there is a hidden agenda.

    The agenda that has now been admitted to by Sen. Ashford is to use this pious-seeming law as a gateway for processing and sorting all Nebraska families. I don't even believe that they care so much about rooting out neglect or abuse, but rather, that they want us all in "the system."

    This new law has allowed layers of government officials and bureaucrats to violate our privacy, force us to accept a "new normal" that includes losing our autonomy and the power to care for our own children, and to provide for FISHING EXPEDITIONS. They will be looking for anything about us that could cause us to feel compromised to the point of not fighting for our kids, our families or our own rights.

    That our Unicameral of 49 senators allowed this law to pass without better scrutiny is incredible. It's more an argument for doing away with the Unicameral system than it is in implicating the under-researched work of individual senators.

    The Unicameral makes these very dangerous, experimental-type laws possible. And it's the people of Nebraska who suffer because of it.

  2. What is an Excused absence. It is medically excused when a parent writes a note for a student 30 or 40 times. that isn't medically excused that is neglect. If more parents were appropriate and accountable we wouldn't need laws like this.

  3. I am always amazed when people express a sense that a vast majority of parents engage in this sort of behavior. Only a very few do, and it's wrong to enslave the rest of us in the name of stopping those few.

    1. And secondly, there are already laws in place that allow something to be done in a situation where it's suspected that a parent is irresponsibly "excusing" his child from school. There is no need for a law which turns sick kids and honor roll students and excelling athletes over to law enforcement. These kids have never been at risk of failure, dropping out, or becoming a burden to society. We don't need a law which places heavy burdens on these good kids. The existing educational neglect law is sufficient for the rare cases of lying parents.

  4. It amazes me as well when people attempt to use the worst sorts of anecdotal examples to inaccurately describe the majority.

    And I'm frankly tired of hearing parents painted as villains to their own children. Believe it or not, it's not politicians, school administrators, government bureaucrats, prosecutors or judges who care most about kids. It's the children's OWN families.

    Any attempt by some to promote the notion that parents are their children's worst enemies have ulterior motives and something quite self-interested to gain by it. But I'll tell you this, whatever it is, it has NOTHING to do with caring about our children. We parents do that just fine, thank you very much.

    Step away from my children.