Monday, March 27, 2017

The Payne Family:Lincoln Public Schools Continues Sending Sick Children to the County Attorney

What began as a normal school year for my daughter quickly turned into a nightmare.  My daughter began having stomachaches in August and from August 2015 to November 2015 we ended up in the emergency room on four occasions.  Six weeks after school started I had numerous phone visits with the school social worker and weekly emails with an administrator as well as requesting homework for Hannah to work on at home.  (Little did we know at the time that my daughter would be diagnosed with eosinophilic gastritis, a rare disease and usually lifelong and subsequent diagnoses of polycystic ovary syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and possible endometriosis.).  In December we had a meeting at the school with four personnel from school about a collaborative plan.   At this time, Hannah had kept up with 6 of her 7 classes and was receiving A’s and B’s in her classes.  Clearly she was doing well even amidst the absences.  29 absences were acquired by December 22nd and even though we had 20 M.D. notes between October and January, we were referred to the County Attorney for truancy. 

Our first court appearance was in March 2016 where my daughter was placed on probation and given a court appointed public defender.  We had four court dates we had to appear for between March and September 2016.  My daughter was given a probation officer  who “recommended” to the court in May that my daughter go to summer school, see a psychologist weekly, and have a tracker from Cedars.  As part of that recommendation this all became court ordered.  Anytime my daughter was going to miss school (which was weekly), I had to inform the probation officer.  When my daughter was too ill to attend summer school and acquired 5 absences she was declined from attending summer school.  The probation officer then required my daughter to attend day reporting at Owens.  I was very strongly opposed to this.  It is a facility where troubled teens go to be “monitored” Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  She was being mingled with teens that were required to wear ankle monitors and talked about smoking, illicit behaviors, etc.  Only 6 absences before you are dropped from the program and my daughter due to her illness missed that many days and was not allowed to attend.  The next thing that was suggested was that she apply for a job to stay busy and stay out of trouble and so they would “know where she was.”  Are you kidding me?  My daughter could not attend summer school due to illness, how was she going to hold down a job?

The probation officer, the judge, the county attorney and day reporting personnel all treated my daughter like she was a “bad student,” “troubled teen.”   For a young girl what message does this send?  If I was this stressed about this entire situation, just imagine the stress my daughter was placed in which I believe only exacerbated her illness.  The probation officer was suspicious of her from day one.  She left us on the defensive all the time.  The County attorney would glare at us in court hearings.  The Owens Day intake reporter and leader was somewhat crude in his explanations, using slang, and asking my daughter all sorts of questions encompassing behaviors my daughter has never engaged in.  

In June 2016, I emailed the probation officer stating this was all wrong and that my daughter was not skipping school nor was she a bad person running around doing illicit behaviors, she was home ill and bedridden.

From June to October 2016, we averaged two appointments per week between seeing a physician and psychologist.  For the first month of the Cedars tracker we had to meet daily M-F.  In this mix of appointments we still had a once a month probation meeting.  In the second month, we were still meeting with the Cedars tracker at least 2 to 3 times a week.  We were asked by the judge to go visit Bryan Behavioral School for a possible placement.  All of these visits needed to be managed while my daughter was feeling ill and while I am still trying to hold down a full time job to provide for my two daughters and me.  I used a lot of sick leave to take my daughter to her appointments.  I cannot tell you the amount of stress placed on both of us and how horrific the stress is for a single mother worrying about her ill child.  The system took precious time away from me caring more for my daughter because we were required to comply with court ordered appointments.  We were threatened if we did not comply with court orders of attendance and appointments they would place Hannah out of the home. 

Our physician, who treated my daughter for her diagnosis, wrote a letter to the court in August 2016 about her rare disease and even then the judge did not drop the case.

From January 2016 to January 2017, we had 4 court hearings, were seen in the emergency room for 8 visits, 60 physician related appointments, tests, and I used over 78 hours of sick leave from work as well as self-employment work missed opportunities during the summer due to appointments as noted above. 

I was not aware of the amended truancy law that was in place until recently, nor was I informed that there was an amended law during these entire proceedings by anyone at school, the public defender, county attorney, nor judge.  At present, my daughter is still on probation and will remain so until March, 2017.  

Cindy Payne, LPS parent
March, 2017

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