Monday, February 24, 2014

Lincoln County: Child with Crohn's Disease Threatened With Foster Care

First of all, I am so very thankful that I have good friends who told me of your advocacy group, as I am beside myself with worry greatly beyond having to deal with my daughter's illness now.

I have, for approximately 3 years, been trying to figure out what has been wrong with my daughter, Kristyna, who is a 14-year-old 8th grader.  She had been complaining of gastrointestinal issues and I have had her to many doctors, who have completed many tests and surgeries in attempt to diagnose.  I was hopeful that after she had her gallbladder removed that we had solved her problem; however, quite the contrary.

To make a long story short....Kristyna was finally placed in the care of the gastrointestinal doctors at Colorado Children's Hospital and I feel that we might be on our way to getting her on the right track after diagnosis of Crohn's Disease and chronic salmonella and pending-to-be-tested for gastroparesis soon.

In the midst of dealing with her illnesses, I have been fighting with the school district concerning her education.  I, as a teacher, take her education SERIOUSLY!  Also, as a teacher in the same district, I apparently continued for much too long having some trust in the idea that if I JUST talked to them enough and provided them with every bit of doctors' information, that they would take her situation seriously (NOT A LITTLE TUMMY ACHE!) and help me with her education during this trying time.

I requested her work from her school and had MANY personal conversations and correspondence with her principal, vice-principal, truancy officer, and Central Office. I knew that I was not getting all of the work that was needed to provide her with an education and to pass her classes.  I requested (as well as her doctors) that she be placed on a 504 Plan.  We met and a plan was drawn up.  At that time, I believed that Kristyna might be able to start attending SOME half days with the medications seemingly proving to have some affect.  Then......she contracted Salmonella!  With Crohn's, any stressers (health or emotional) can throw this person into a flare-up.  Kristyna's body was not able to rid of the Salmonella, as a person with a healthy digestive system would.  Her doctors were stumped as to how to rid her body of this with her already-compromised health condition.

Needless to say, this has been a long, drawn-out, horrible process.  I had asked personally and in email that her 504 Plan include a homebound tutor just in case we were to have some sort of backslide during our first meeting to develop the plan.  I was met with "we will cross that road, if we get there."  I told them that since this is all new to us and every Crohn's patient is different, that I felt it an absolute necessity to have this in the plan.  I was refused this.  Augh, we got to that road.......and my daughter was denied verbally and in writing for a homebound tutor. I became impatient after a half of a year of trying and withdrew her from school and placed her in a homebound tutoring program.  I have also shipped her off to live with my parents in Wyoming, as her health has declined and my parents are getting her in a rhythm of homeschooling.  I unenrolled her from the district on February 3 and NOW have a summons signed on February 18 as to my having to show up to court for truancies.  Her doctor at Colorado Children's Hospital agreed with me that homeschooling would be the best decision for her until she is placed on a treatment program that will help her.  I went in to talk to the District Deputy County Attorney in Lincoln County, Jennifer Wellan, on Friday and was treated as though I wasn't taking this seriously even though I CALLED WITH NO RETURN CALL AND THEN WAS SITTING IN HER OFFICE.....of course, I know it's serious!  She also told me that I could hire a lawyer, if I could afford it (I am a single mother working on a Nebraska teacher's salary, paying for medical and pharmaceutical treatments, and traveling to doctor's appointments) because it might be decided that my daughter could be taken away from me and placed in a foster home.  I AM BESIDE MYSELF!!!!! 

Kristyna is currently with my parents in Wyoming and I am going to be signing over Power of Attorney for health and education.  Will this help my situation?  Please help!!!  My daughter has lived with me her entire life, is a great student, participates in volleyball and basketball (even played through pain in her tournament prior to her gallbladder surgery against my judgement), and is a talented and beautiful singer.  She WANTS to be back with her friends and activities at school.....her health isn't allowing! I CANNOT BELIEVE that a school system has been that unwilling to help a child with a tutor and for laws that are to help children are hurting these kids who are suffering health issues!!!!!!! 

I am an educated individual and this entire situation doesn't even allow me the ability to "write" cohesively when telling of this story right now.  I pray that you can help guide me in a direction that will "stave off the wolves" and allow me to continue to care for my child.


Denise Shoults
North Platte Teacher and Pained Parent

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Flatt Family: Another Chronically Ill Child Charged with Truancy in Douglas County

 My daughter Katrina just turned 15 last week.  She has several serious, chronic medical problems, including juvenile diabetes, severe migraines, and a bowel disorder.  We have seven doctors working with Katrina, including a pain management therapist.  We are doing the best we can to help our daughter.

We have communicated with Westside High School and they are fully aware of Katrina’s medical problems.  They adjusted her schedule and agreed to consider making additional changes, but now they have turned us in to the county attorney.  Westside told us their “hands are tied” because of LB 933 and we found out that’s not necessarily true.  If they would have excused all her absences, which they should have since every one was for illness, then they wouldn’t have had to turn her in.  Also, we know now that there’s a cover sheet attached to every referral and our school had the opportunity to check “do not prosecute” on the sheet.  They must have recommended the county attorney prosecute our daughter, because she got served with papers accusing her of being truant.  She has never skipped a day of school in her life.

Can anyone tell me how the county attorney is going to help my sick daughter?
How does punishing her for being sick help her attendance?  It doesn’t!  It will only make things worse.  The stress on her has just increased by a ton!  She knows that other sick kids have been taken away from their parents, and we are all terrified that she will be next.

Last year, in middle school, Katrina missed even more days than she has this year.  We were called down to the courthouse but as soon as they saw our medical documentation, they told us to go home.  Now this year, they file charges?  None of this makes any sense.

This is a terrible, unfair law that is hurting innocent kids.  My daughter is not a criminal, she is a sick little girl who hates missing so much school.  I don’t understand how adults can treat kids this way.  If the point of this law is to terrify sick children, then the law is working.

We are now going to have to hire an attorney to represent us at our court hearing in two weeks.  That’s a couple thousand dollars that we can’t spare, but that’s what this law, the school, and the county attorney are forcing parents of sick kids to do.  In the meantime, we will talk to Katrina’s grandmother in Iowa to see if Katrina can come there and live.  If  leaving Nebraska is the only way our daughter can be safe, then we’ll have to do it, but it’s not right that Nebraska parents should have to send their sick children away to protect them.

Donna Flatt
District 66
February 23, 2014

"I Had Done Nothing Wrong But Be Sick"

Lucas Maynard was only 12 when the sheriff served him with papers accusing him of being “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's absences were all excused by his school since they were either due to illness or to days when the roads were impassable because of heavy snow (the Maynards lived in a rural area 12 miles from their school).  Thinking the charges had to be a mistake, Lucas's parents went to court with their doctor's notes, assuming everything would be straightened out quickly.  Imagine their shock when their son was separated from them, placed between a prosecutor and a guardian ad litem, and told by the judge he might be taken from his parents.  Lucas writes about this frightening experience in his letter to the Judiciary Committee.

Dear Members of the Judiciary Committee;

My parents and I are in support for the changes to the attendence law and the new proposed amendments. We want to see an end to the stories of children and their families being taking into court by county attorneys for being sick from school like I was this past year.

I had done nothing wrong but be sick and then to have my name given to a deputy county attorney who didn't even know me or my family and then he filed papers against me. He didn't even talk to my principal or my mom or dad about why I was missing school.

He just sent a deputy to my house with the papers for me and my parents and I was told if I didn't go to court I would go to jail. I was very scared. But my mom said not to worry.

But when we did go to court, they made me sit at a table with guys I didn't know and the judge had the charges read to me about things I hadn't done and then told me if I was guilty I would be taken away from my parents. I was asked if I understood all of this lawyer talk but I didn't even though I said I did.

It took my mom and the help of others to get the county attorney to drop the charges so I did not have to go to court again but we still had to deal with the law this year as I became sick again.

Please fix this law so kids like me who are sick don't have to go to court or have to deal with cops and lawyers.

Lucas Maynard
Gurley, Nebraska

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"School shouldn't be a place we are terrified to go": Antony Ward's Letter to the Judiciary Committee


My passion is football!  I am a Senior this year and a 4 year Varsity Football Player at South High. I am the State Power Lifting Champion.  I help take care of my family.  I work a part time job.  I am involved with my church, Avenue Scholars Program & Greatness Academy and my dream is going to college play football and get my degrees in Engineering & Videography … school is my gateway ticket there. 
I never expected to get thrown in Truancy Court because I was never Truant for even one day… I was only absent with illness and good reasons.   The only thing we are working against here is to get that percentage of  kids that have illness, sickness or excused days where their parents communicate with the school board on what’s going on in their household we are trying to get that percentage out of the court room.
I got Mono and was real sick missed lots of days of school I was sick for over 5 months.  I didn't miss my school work because my Mom made sure I kept up with my school work.  When my Mom almost died it was so hard to see her in so much pain losing so much blood and so weak.  Some days my little brother and I would stay home because we thought if we went to school and she died that would be horrible so we stayed with her together with my family.  I am mad at the lawmakers for putting my family through such a terrible nightmare.  It has been very stressful, scary and took a lot of time away from our happiness.
We had to find attorneys and people just to help us fight for our innocence and find justice. 
Our lives changed so much and it was very scary not knowing if the police were gonna come take my little brother away… or my Mom  he was always very sick with asthma and he got any virus that came to his school even swine flu
my family that too, but I didn't get it.    I like school & I get good grades,  Missing those  many days of school didn't negatively effect my education because I still learned what the other kids learned and turned in my work. 
My Mom always had me get my make up work from my teachers and I kept up with my class even though I was not sitting in a seat at school… I still learned and today I’m going to College at Metro and UNO taking my classes to get my Associates Degrees.  So that truancy law stole time from our lives and wasted lots of money and made our lives life very sad. 
This school year I've had: torn quad, upper respiratory infection, sprained ankle, stomach bug, other football related injuries, I’m just a normal regular kid going to school, playing sports and getting injured or hurt sometimes along with the occasional cold/virus that comes through attending school.
This is a note from one of many colleges that want me to come to their school.
They wrote to me and said, “Antony, our coaching staff has identified you as an athlete we definitely want as a part of our 2014 recruiting class.  Not only are you a fine football player, but we also recognize your high level of academic success!”
Funny how all my "excessive absences" haven't had any negative impact on my grades and my academic success shows that!  I am proud of myself and I know my family is proud of me.
School is only one place we learn certain things, being with our family and living life is how we learn to be an adult and our parents know us the best. One day I missed school and made up my assignment and my teacher told me I was the only one who turned in the assignment and I wasn't even in school that day so I don’t think it is true that you have to be in a seat at school to learn.  You do have to have a good parent that care about you.
If you keep taking away our childhood and punish us and take us away from our families that we love you just hurt us. 
Our parents love us the most and know what’s best for us.  We aren't criminals.  Please take the police out of our schools because your parents didn't have to face courts, sheriffs at your door, wait for attorneys to come to your house then they don’t even show up.  School shouldn't be a place we are terrified to go to… police should get criminals and sick kids  & kids that skip school are not criminals… just kids.
We don’t need to go to court or diversion and neither do our parents.   I liked school a lot better before this law came out.
It is unjust and all the damage this law has done is just stupid and really  hurt my family bad.
Like my Mom says… we will never ever be the same and even though we are free and our cases dismissed …we still suffer lots of stress from this whole Truancy scare.
 I’m glad I’m 18 so that stress & fear goes away from my family now.  Everyone deserves a chance to grow up and if the truancy law wants money they should find another way than making profit off us kids.  Please get rid of that law Repeal it and make it go away so we can be safe at school again.  This law is just wrong!
Antony Ward

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"He Never Told Me Where I Would Be Taken": Jamison's Story

This is about the Nebraska truancy law and how I felt.

Dear Members of the judiciary committee

This is the way I felt:

My name is Jamison Hoyt, I was affected by this law at the age of 14 last year as an 8th grade student at Leyton Junior High.

A police officer came to my house and served me a summons at 9 oclock at night, for court.  The judge said that if I was found guilty, I could be taken out of my home.  And I felt this was unjust and harsh even though I had a doctor's note for every missed day.  When he gave me the papers I felt angry and mistreated.

When I went to court, I was told I could not miss more than 3 days, whether I was sick or not.  I was told I would be taken out of my home, but he never told me where I would be taken.

I think that this law should be repealed because it is not right to punish someone for being sick.  This should not be considered truancy.

Sincerely yours

Jamison Hoyt

"Please Listen to the Kids"


I am writing you to let you know how this law has impacted me personally.   I have a chronic illness and have to miss school when I am sick.   I am constantly being bullied about being gone, not only by the students at my school, but by my school’s administration. I am an A student, I get the material that is being taught, and I get caught up if I have been gone. While at the same time there are kids that are at school every day and sit there and do nothing, they fail classes and don’t get any of the material being taught to them.  Yet, I am the one being threatened with referral to the county attorney.  I am being yelled at and threatened.

You say that you guys are doing what is best for the kids then why are we (the kids) terrified of you. Why are you threatening children to take them away from there families because they are sick. My little sister thinks it is wrong to be sick because she is going to get in trouble. This hasn’t affected just me, this has affected my little sister and that hurts me so much and I can’t do anything about it. Think about waking up every morning and not being able to control your own body, I feel trapped.  For 4 years now I have been fighting my own body. My little sister watches me hurt every day. My family is being torn apart because of this law. You can only be strong for so long and you can only keep quiet before the roar over powers you. The roar is over powering. This law has affected me so much it has taken away my childhood.  

If you don’t listen to our parents, PLEASE listen to the kids!  Please amend this law and return the decisions about absences to the parents, teachers and schools.  Please quit threatening and bullying kids with referral to law enforcement. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

From the Heart of a Child: Michael Ward's letter to the Judiciary Committee


My name is Michael Ward, The truancy law made me feel scared always now… scared that something bad is gonna happen to us.
My family shouldn't have to be afraid anymore. I'm still nervous wondering what will happen next to my friends that don't know how to fight like my Mom.
I wish I could be born again without any sickness so I wouldn't bring the cops to our home.
I lost my friends and my teachers that I love it isn't fair.  I wish this law would stop hurting us and my friends.
Why do we have to be punished like criminals?  I don’t understand we’re just kids.
I loved going to school.  Now, it isn't safe for me and my little brother to be there.  
I’m so glad my Mom is strong and loves us so much she teaches us at home in our FREEDOM HOME SCHOOL now.
I’m happy again.  When my Mom told me changes we happening to the bad law I wanted to leap for joy!
My Mom told me I am very special and God made me perfect with my asthma and everything and I feel proud knowing that.
I don’t ever want to go back to public school since this law is still around.
Thank you for caring about us.  It would be great if we had a super hero like Optimus Prime he could stomp this law deep into the ground So it could never come back and hurt us ever again.