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


  1. Isn't it time for the Office of Civil Rights, or the ACLU, or the Department of Justice to come to Nebraska (and with this and other problems - DOUGLAS COUNTY) to investigate? I think it's long past time. I'm just waiting for the first law suit to bring better attention to these outrageous abuses of Nebraska children and families. (Hey folks, these are the SAME people the public entrusts to determine "best interests" of children in "child protection" and juvenile court cases. I'm just sayin'. The lack of competence and the abusive over-reach doesn't just get turned on and off. It's ON).

  2. Dear Flatt Family,

    I am going through the same scenario with my daughter's school. I have asked WHY there are unexcused absences still on her attendance record and thus response. I have been completely transparent concerning my daughter's health and our having to be patient with the doctors who are trying to diagnose and find treatment for her. I had asked who the responsible party was for turning it over to the County Attorney and their response was that "they (the school) are 'obligated' to turn a child over after 20 days." I believe that the unexcused absences that they "decide" to keep on the record, even with medical documentation provided, is a major problem. From what I have read on the law concerning a school being "obligated" to turn a child over after 20 days is not correct. I do believe that that is a "decision" rather than an "obligation." I asked this, too, of the response thus far. I am so very sorry that you and your daughter are having to go through all of this legal fight due to, what I feel is, neglect of compassion of a school toward a child who is ill. Fighting to gain ground toward your child's health should be THEE ONLY fight you should have to put energies into! Is there anybody who could enlighten us on the amended law of, I believe, April 2012 that gave schools the OPTION to turn a child over or not? And, what are the standard deciding factors that drive whether or not they turn a child over to be punished by the law for missing school due to illness (esp. chronic illness)?

  3. First of all, I am so very sorry that your family is having to go through all of this horrible mess on top of her health issues! My situation is very similar with my own daughter. I have asked WHY there are still unexcused absences showing on my daughter's attendance, when I have communicated with them (as her mother) as to her health issues AND with doctor's records and response thus far. Also, with my reading laws, an amendment passed, I believe, in April 2012 allowed schools to make the "decision" as to whether or not they turn these children over to the County Attorney. However, our school's response to my questioning as to WHO made the decision to turn my daughter over was..."we are 'obligated' to turn it over after 20 days." When I questioned again as to who was at the helm of turning it over, I also copy/pasted this amendment and asked if it was an "obligation" or a response thus far. I "think" that those schools who are deciding to turn these children over are banking on "the unexcused" that are seemingly haphazardly "decided" per whatever their standards are to "what is considered excused." My question is: What are these standards and are they legitimate and legal? I would think that a parent's open communication as to the child fighting health issues and especially coupled with health professionals' documentation and letters to the school would be AMPLE reasoning for excusing absences. Getting to the root of the school's documenting practices of attendance may be a good fight to fight. I am appalled in my own situation and so very disappointed and saddened that our children are being charged CRIMINALLY for being ill and for certain schools being so very uncompassionate. We need compassion in our schools (modeling), if we are placing our children in their care to not only teach curriculum, but to teach them how to grow up to be good people. Fight the good fight for your daughter no matter how daunting it seems and I THANK those who have joined together to help our children and their families!!!! Is there anybody out there who can elaborate on this amendment that I speak of?