Saturday, July 20, 2013
ABUSE OF TRUANCY LAW, AND ABUSE OF NEBRASKA FAMILIES, CONTINUES THROUGHOUT THE STATE
Another day, another abuse of Nebraska’s “truancy” law--the law that isn’t about truancy at all.
On June 19, the sheriff showed up at the Maynard home in Sidney, Nebraska. Lucas Maynard, age 12, was commanded to appear in court on July 18. The charges against him read as follows:
“Lucas Maynard is a juvenile who: is habitually truant from home or school and deports himself in a manner so as to injure or seriously endanger the morals or health of himself or others.”
Lucas’ parents, Darla and Dennis Maynard were stunned. Lucas had been ill several times during the school year, but his mother had communicated with the school every time and had given the school doctor’s notes whenever it had been necessary to take her son in for medical attention. In addition, Lucas missed two days during inclement weather. The Maynards live 16 miles from the school, Creek Valley Middle School in Lodgepole, Nebraska, and twice during the winter, the roads were impassable.
According to school district policy, an absence is considered unexcused if it is without parental and administrative permission. This means all of Lucas’s 22 absences should have been excused (Mrs. Maynard is in the process of verifying that the school documented these absences correctly.) Lucas kept up on his homework and his grades are good.
One of the documents attached to the summons was a letter from the principal, Katherine Urbanek, to the county attorney. In the letter, Ms. Urbanek specifically states that she is referring the Maynards to the county attorney because it's the "obligation of state law.” She then proceeded to explain that Lucas's absences were legitimate, he was conscientious about making up his work after being absent, he had maintained good grades and was passing all classes. The principal specifically states, "In my professional opinion, Lucas's days of absence have not had a negative effect on his academic success." Since the principal herself clearly states that Lucas's absences were legitimate, her assertion that she is obligated to report him to the county attorney is incorrect. The 2012 amendment to the “truancy” law specifically states that schools are not required to turn children in to the county attorney if all absences are excused.
The law also states that “one or more meetings between a school attendance officer, school social worker or the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff, the child's parent or guardian, and the child” must be conducted to attempt to solve the problem of “excessive absenteeism.” According to Mr. and Mrs. Maynard, Creek Valley Middle School never conducted this required meeting, and they were taken completely by surprise.
On July 18, the Maynards appeared in court where they were dismayed when their 12-year-old child was separated from them and compelled to sit in the front of the courtroom between the prosecutor and the guardian ad litem assigned to his false truancy case. A bad situation got even worse when the judge read the charges against this innocent little boy and informed him that one of the consequences of his absences from school could be removal from his parents’ custody.
Mrs. Maynard described her son at that moment as “shrinking into his chair, white as a ghost. He was terrified.”
Since the guardian ad litem did not meet with the Maynards prior to the hearing, the judge continued the false truancy case until August 14. The Maynards have four weeks to hire an attorney and prepare a defense for their young, frightened child, whose only “crime” was being ill. He is not a gang member, a drug user or a shoplifter. He is not a minor in possession of alcohol or a vandal. He does not "deport himself in a manner so as to injure or seriously endanger the morals or health of himself or others." He is merely a young child whose mother kept him home from school when he was sick, like good parents do. Treating him like a criminal is a stunning abuse of power.
I am sick and tired of hearing these stories! Remember Gov. Heineman’s assurance that Nebraskans would use “good old common sense” when enforcing this law? That’s not happening. It’s not happening in Douglas County, it’s not happening in Lancaster County, and it’s not happening way out in Deuel County in the panhandle of our state. As long as this law is used to abuse, terrorize, and tear apart children and families, the NFF will continue exposing that abuse and fighting to repeal this outrageous government assault on our families once and for all.
Posted by Brenda Vosik at Saturday, July 20, 2013