Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thoughts on Amendment 2164

Whenever I talk to the press, I feel nervous that they're going to misquote me or take my words out of context. So in a nutshell, here's what I really mean.

The current excessive absenteeism law has harmed many children and families.

Interactions with the justice system have been particularly harmful for children suffering from mental and behavioral health issues (depression, autism, etc.)

School districts throughout the state have reported thousands of children to the county attorney unnecessarily. I don't know why. Some day I'd like to get a straight answer from educators on what would possess them to turn struggling kids over to law enforcement without cause or remorse.

County attorneys have prosecuted children who were not skipping school and were absent through no fault of their own, including sick children with doctor's notes. I don't understand this either. I'm not giving the county attorneys a pass; however, I do know it's their job to prosecute and get convictions.  I understand their actions more than I understand the actions of the educators, who have devoted their lives to helping children, yet have caused so much harm.

I am satisfied with the verbiage of Amendment 2164 and feel confident that positive changes will result when it becomes law.

The amendment, if implemented correctly, will resolve the problem of children with absences due to physical and behavioral health being turned over to the county attorney. I believe it will prevent thousands of children from being thrown into the juvenile justice system.

There are children who need help overcoming barriers to attendance. AM 2164 is designed to offer that help rather than punish children who are struggling.

I believe Sen. Brad Ashford is doing a good job of explaining the problems with the current law and why changes need to be made. I appreciate his willingness to advocate for those changes.

I am particularly grateful for Sen. Mark Christensen's work on this issue. His advocacy for our families was behind the scenes and many people will never know the extent of his contribution, but suffice it to say he is a hero in my book.

Once the changes take effect, parents will need to work collaboratively with their schools to ensure the new law is implemented as intended. Parents elect their school board members and pay the salaries of school employees, so parental input into policies affecting their kids is crucial. It is the parents' responsibility to work with their school districts respectfully to achieve what is best for their children. That is, after all, what we have been fighting for.

Brenda Vosik, Director
Nebraska Family Forum

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