Monday, August 25, 2014

Parents: Be Proactive

Nebraska public schools are in full swing for the 2014-15 school year. This is a reminder that we all need to take responsibility for making sure our kids get to school whenever they are able, and we need to get them there on time. When they are not able to attend or they have to be late, it's important for you to keep a WRITTEN LOG of their absences, down to the minute, along with the reason for their absence. Be sure to compare your written log to the school's on-line attendance site at least once a week.

If your child is ill enough to stay home, but not ill enough to go to the doctor (low-grade fever, 24-hour stomach flu, etc.), take a picture! Take a picture of the thermometer with their temp on it. Take a picture or videotape the vomit (I'm not kidding). If you're caught in traffic behind a wreck, take a picture. If your car breaks down, save the repair receipt. Document document document. Unfortunately, this is what it has come to in districts like Lincoln Public Schools. If you are referred to law enforcement for legitimate, parent-approved absences, your attorney can use your documentation and photos to defend you.

And while you're documenting, why not write a letter to your school board and ask them to change unreasonable attendance policies? Those of us in Millard, Gretna, and Omaha Public Schools would be happy to show you what a reasonable attendance policy looks like. There ARE districts that respect parents while providing a top-notch education! (Millard has a 98% graduation rate and a family-friendly attendance policy.)

Be proactive and protect your kids!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Attendance Law Takes Effect With New School Year

NFF Parents:  The new state law regarding school absences took effect on July 18.  As children throughout Nebraska head back to school over the next couple of weeks, we will begin seeing how our own school districts and county attorneys handle the changes.  (Please click on this link for a reminder of the primary changes included in the new law.)

The new law has returned discretion over attendance back to the school districts, within the guidelines set forth in LB464, and many of those districts have revised their attendance policies over the summer.   Some of the new policies look great; others continue to be unreasonable.  Case in point is Lincoln Public Schools, which still categorizes parent-approved illnesses and medical appointments as “unexcused,” with no differentiation between parents calling their children in sick and kids who are really skipping school.

The Nebraska Family Forum as a group had a great impact on getting state law changed and returning discretion to the local level.  It’s now up to you, the parents of each district, to communicate with your school boards if you are unhappy with your local attendance policy.

Several members of the NFF, myself included, have experience dealing with school boards and administrators, organizing other parents, and effecting change.  We would be happy to guide you through that process.  However, a parent in Omaha, or a statewide group such as ours, cannot resolve a bad attendance policy in No. Platte or Lincoln or Hastings.  That is up to individual community members.

Don’t be intimidated by your local school board members.  You elected them, and they are there to do what’s best for your children and your families.  They are your friends and neighbors and fellow parishioners.  NFF members have found that school boards are, for the most part, approachable and open to hearing from the parents they represent.  Most of them are parents too, and are more than willing to listen to your concerns.

My advice to all of you is to read your district’s new attendance policy NOW.  If you think it’s reasonable, that’s great.  If you have issues with the way your district plans to implement the changes to state law, I suggest you take action right now.  Don’t let the new policies catch you by surprise.  Be proactive, instead of being forced into the position of reacting after the fact.  Protect your kids and protect your family, now rather than later.  These are OUR schools and they exist to educate OUR children.  It is our right and responsibility as parents to speak up and ask for change when school policy is hurting our children.

If you need help approaching your school board, please feel free to contact me at 

Brenda Vosik, Director

Nebraska Family Forum