Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Douglas County Board supports repeal of "excessive absenteeism" law

On Tuesday, October 8, the Douglas County Board passed a resolution supporting the repeal of the section of LB 800 that, in 2010, made 20 days of absence from school a crime.  The board’s resolution also supports repeal of the amendments (LB 463 and LB 933) that were passed in an attempt to fix the original law, and recommends replacement with a law that addresses actual truancy, defined as absence from school without the knowledge or permission of a parent or guardian.

This is an enormous step forward in the Nebraska Family Forum’s efforts to rid Nebraska of a law that has hurt many families across the state, and caused thousands of innocent children to become entangled with the juvenile justice system.

The passage of this resolution is a powerful statement by the elected officials of the most populous county in Nebraska, a majority of whom recognize that our “excessive absenteeism” law is, quite simply, a bad law.  Our county board can now put the weight of their resources, including the county lobbyist, behind the efforts to repeal our state’s “truancy” law – the law that was never about truancy at all.

Thank you to all of the parents who testified passionately about the harm the law has done over the past three years:  Willie Hamilton (community activist, radio talk show host and founder/president of Black Men United), Vaughn Crowell, Gina Miller, Katie Burton, Laura McCormick, Melanie Williams-Smotherman and Jesamari Hernandez (Heartland Workers Center), who prepared a wonderful testimony on behalf of the Latino community, but had to leave the long meeting before having the opportunity to speak.

Thank you to all the county commissioners for listening to their constituents and for their thoughtful comments and questions about this issue.  The resolution passed 4-1, with Mary Ann Borgeson, Mike Boyle, Pam Tusa and Clare Duda voting to support repeal, Marc Kraft voting against, P.J. Morgan absent, and Chris Rodgers abstaining.

Most of all, a huge thank you to the Chair of the County Board, Mary Ann Borgeson, who has been an outspoken opponent of the excessive absenteeism law from the very beginning.  Mary Ann placed this resolution on the County Board’s agenda, and yesterday she spoke eloquently and passionately about her belief that the law must be repealed for the sake of Nebraska’s families.  I have never met an elected official who is such a steadfast, unwavering advocate for children, families, and justice, even in the face of disagreement and political pressure.  Thank you Mary Ann, for standing up for Nebraska’s families!

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