Monday, June 24, 2013


Dear NFF Members:
For the past three years, Nebraska families have lived under Brad Ashford's "excessive absenteeism" law, which was passed in 2010 under the guise of preventing truancy.  We now know that this law was never about truancy; in fact, changes in truancy rates are not even being measured.  Rather, this has been a massive transfer of authority over our children from parents to public officials, and a criminalization of absences from school.
Even after the April 2012 amendment to the law, Melanie Williams-Smotherman and I are still spending many hours every week advocating for families of non-truant children who are being unjustly attacked by school districts, county attorneys, and judges from throughout the state.  The cases that happen to come to our attention are surely the tip of the iceberg.  This law is so invasive and has created such an industry of taxpayer-funded jobs, that fighting individual cases is like swimming upstream.  Even when our advocacy is successful, we might as well be putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, because the next abused family is right around the corner.  It never stops.
Although some individuals in the "attendance enforcement system" admit there have been mistakes and seem open to change, Melanie and I feel the abuse is too widespread and the practices too entrenched for acceptable changes to ever be made within the confines of the current law.  We think the law must be repealed completely.
What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?
We need your input to decide on our next step.  Please take a few seconds to respond.  We welcome any comments of any length, even if it's just a simple "yes, the law should be repealed" or "no, the current law is working and shouldn't be changed."  Your answer is very important to us.  Thank you for your response.


  1. Repeal the law. It's a joke and an overstepping of the government into parental rights.

  2. AnonymousJune 24, 2013

    This law is a joke and should be repealed. Why do our politicians want to hurt law abiding citizens??? Why should I worry beyond worry about how many absences my child has when my child gets sick. REPEAL.

  3. Thank you for sharing this very nice post, please keep continue the sharing of this types of information. Here we are waiting for more

  4. Yes, the law should be repealed

  5. This law is about money, not education. Enriching lawyers and public officials is the consequence, no matter what the intention. A recent child welfare report puts Nebraska near the bottom of the barrel with more children living in poverty and more families in stressful circumstances. The upshot will be more of these cases, but how to move the needle? Petitions? More letters to deaf legislators? Perhaps a massive exodus from the public school-system in protest? This would be a tragedy for most families, but our tax money is already being abused, so why not refuse to give illusion that this law is about helping anyone? Repealing it would be a start.

  6. Laura McCormickJune 27, 2013

    The law needs to be changed. How much does the law cost taxpayers? What about the intrusion into parents' rights to make decisions for their own children? Where is the substantive data supporting the assertion that this law has helped children and families in Nebraska?

  7. AnonymousJuly 02, 2013

    Yes. This law needs to be repealed or amended. Two of my children were very ill this year. Actually, about every day they came home telling me that there was a sick classmate in the room with a fever because they didn't want to miss school. Since my children have asthma they're more susceptible to illness. They missed 20 days. I got called in to be made aware that a letter was sent to the county attorney's office even though I had doctor's notes for most of the absences. We spent over $3000 this year taking our children to the doctor to make sure we were covered legally. Several of the illnesses didn't warrant doctors notes. My children get A's and B's in school.

    1. Your story and details may be helpful in successfully repealing this law. Would you be willing to meet and discuss what you have experienced? If so, please email the director of the Nebraska Family Forum (Brenda Vosik) at for a confidential discussion. Thank you!

    2. Dear Anonymous,

      I'm so sorry about your situation. Nebraska essentially criminalized absenteeism/illness in 2010 and school districts tightened their attendance policies in response. Even though we amended the law in 2012, some school districts did not go back and change their attendance policies and continue to just turn everyone over to law enforcement at 20 days, no matter the reason. Apparently you live in one of those districts.

      We want to repeal this law, as well as change attendance policies in districts such as OPS and Lincoln, who do not honor parental and physician judgment to decide when a child is sick. In order to do this, we need stories like yours. If you would be willing to visit with us, we promise to keep your information confidential. Please contact me at (Note that the previous e-mail address given is incorrect) if you would be willing to help with our efforts to get rid of this law. Thank you.