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Attendance Law

The Latest News on Nebraska's School Attendance Law

The governor signed into law a hard fought compromise on Nebraska Truancy on April 6th, 2012. The changes were small but lawmakers hope that these changes will reduce the numbers of students who fall into the broad net cast by this law and keep good students out of the court system. The change will take time to prove its effectiveness. The portion of this change supported by the NFF was that it no longer REQUIRES school districts to report every student at 20 days of absence. By removing this mandate and requiring only students with unexcused absences to be referred to law enforcement school districts have the power, they can define attendance policy, excuse absences, and protect their students and families from a heavy handed judiciary.

District policy and the attitudes of school administrators will govern this agenda and make all the difference as to whether our schools will be family centered in their priorities or not. In order for parents to make the most of the 2012 changes they must get active in their districts and insist that school district attendance policies and procedures reflect their values and priorities.

I encourage School Boards to implement attendance policies that honor family time and parental authority. The 2012 Gretna School District policy as a model worth emulating.

Gretna School District Policy:

All absences, except for illness and/or death in the family, require advance approval.

An absence for any of the following reasons will be excused, provided the required procedures have been followed:

(1) Illness (personal Illness of the student)
(2) Bereavement or emergency in the family
(3) Doctor or dental appointment which require student to be absent from school
(4) Court appearances that are required by a court order
(5) School sponsored activities which require students to be absent from school
(6) Family trips in which student accompanies parents/legal guardians
(7) Religious observance
(8) Other absences which have received prior approval from the Principal

LB 933 final passage:

Voting in the affirmative, 46


Adams, Cornett, Harms, Lautenbaugh, Schilz, Ashford, Council Harr, B. Louden Schumacher, Avery Dubas, Heidemann, McCoy, Smith, Bloomfield, Fischer, Howard, McGill, Sullivan, Brasch, Flood Janssen, Mello, Wallman, Campbell, Fulton, Karpisek, Nelson, Wightman, Carlson, Gloor, Lambert,           Nordquist, Christensen, Haar, K. Langemeier, Pahls, Coash, Hadley, Larson, Pirsch, Conrad, Hansen,             Lathrop, Price

Voting in the negative, 0

Excused and not voting, 3

Cook, Krist, Seiler

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Basic History and Overview of the Law, the Plan, and the Policies

Nebraska’s New Truancy Law diminishes the natural rights of parents and endangers the integrity and freedom of Nebraska families in these basic ways:

1. Changed the definition of a “truant” to include excused absences.
2. Created a new classification of delinquent behavior called, “excessive absenteeism”
3. Added broad prosecutorial powers to the county attorney to get involved at any stage of the process
4. Created a system for school districts to refer students to state agencies including CPS before the student has missed twenty days of school.

Here's how it works in a nutshell:

1) We have a compulsory education law: It requires parents of any child “who is of mandatory attendance age” to “cause such child to attend school regularly”; which means to attend “each day that such school is open and in session, except when excused by school authorities or when illness make attendance impossible or impracticable.”

2) This makes it necessary for the state to have a compulsory attendance law, which was rewritten in the 2010 legislative session and passed as LB800. This law stripped the classic definition of truancy out and included all absences for the criminal statute; it created a whole new class of delinquent behavior called "excessive absenteeism" that starts as early as 5 days; and it added broad prosecutorial power to the law that allows the county attorney to prosecute at any stage of the process.

3) In the 2011 legislative session, additions to the "attendance" law were added with the passage of LB463. This provided the state with further power over family life by allowing schools to refer students to the GOALS team, glorified CPS well before a student has 20 absences. This combined with the broad prosecutorial power the county attorney has to prosecute at any stage of the process is used as a "hammer" (as Judge Crnkovich and others have called it) to press parents to enter the "family service agreements" set up by these agencies or face prosecution and possible removal of their child from their home.

4) The only small protection provided families came about because of NFPF efforts to combat the law in 2011. At our insistence a caveat was added to the law that guaranteed that students wouldn't be referred to "GOALS" until they had five unexcused absences in one year. This protection was significantly diminished in August of 2011 in many West side school districts when they removed many reasonable grounds for excused absences from their district policies, making it easier for kids to accrue unexcused absences - further diminishing the discretion of parents over the school attendance of their child.

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Statement of Intent to Amend Nebraska Statute 79-209, 79-2121


The following constitutes the reasons for these proposed amendments and the purposes which are sought to be accomplished thereby:

The unintended consequences that have resulted from the changed definition of truancy, which has shifted discretion related to school absences from parents and principals to lawyers and judges, has caused a fundamental shift of authority that threatens to weaken the positive relationship between schools and parents and to disrupt a healthy family centered culture in which the primary responsibility for the education and well being of a child rest in the hands of parents. It is necessary to restore the classic definition of truancy in order that parents may retain their natural rights and the trustful relationship that should exist between schools and parents can be restored.

Children in loving homes, with parents who are actively involved, have fallen within the oversight and jurisdiction of DHHS and the juvenile justice system as a result of this law. The law has been the cause of unacceptable abuses such as: (1) students and families that have suffered the humiliation of being classified criminals despite excellent academic records and documented excused absences. (2) Families who “voluntarily” entered truancy diversion programs under the threat of having their child removed from their home, and (3) have subsequently been subjected to detailed supervision of their family life by lawyers, judges, and social workers. (4) Families who would not submit to truancy diversion are still fighting their cases in court.

It is our goal to preserve the function of the law which seeks to prevent habitual truancy and juvenile delinquency while protecting Nebraskan families from government over-reach and undue scrutiny by state authorities.

We propose changes to the statute, policies, and practices related to school attendance and truancy law as follows:
Creates two separate and distinct definitions related to “problematic absenteeism”; one for an excessive amount of excused absences and the other for unexcused absences or “habitual truancy”.

Defines excessive absenteeism as (1) missing school for any reason that exceeds the number of the days allowed in the district policy, (2) While it seeks to address the problem of excessive absenteeism it does not criminalize it; (3) All action or intervention related to excessive excused absences is handled at the local school level in congruence with school district policy.

Restores the classic definition of truancy (1) as being absent from school without permission and (2) Students who miss more five unexcused days or the hourly equivalent in one school quarter or ten unexcused absences in one school year, when such absences are not excused to the satisfaction of district policy by the parent, guardian, or other person having control of such child, are referred to the county attorney for “Truancy Mentoring”.

Provides a mechanism for early interventions and services for truant students by 1) providing schools in the Learning Community with the option of utilizing the county GOALS team when a student has been absent five days without excuse in one year. 2) Services to be administered in a mentor style truancy program that focuses on partnerships with non-profit philanthropic organizations as well as faith based organizations to reach out to students and their families in personal and positive ways.
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Current Law:

Statute 79-209: Excessive Absenteeism

In all school districts in this state, any superintendent, principal, teacher, or member of the school board who knows of any violation of section 79-201 on the part of any child of school age, his or her parent, the person in actual or legal control of such child, or any other person shall within three days report such violation to the attendance officer of the school, who shall investigate the case. When of his or her personal knowledge, by report or complaint from any resident of the district, or by report or complaint as provided in this section, the attendance officer believes that any child is unlawfully absent from school, the attendance officer shall immediately investigate.

All school districts shall have a written policy on excessive absenteeism developed in collaboration with the county attorney of the county in which the principal office of the school district is located. The policy shall include a provision indicating how the school district and the county attorney will handle cases in which excessive absences are due to documented illness that makes attendance impossible or impracticable, and the policy shall state the number of absences or the hourly equivalent upon the occurrence of which the school shall render all services in its power to compel such child to attend some public, private, denominational, or parochial school, which the person having control of the child shall designate, in an attempt to address the problem of excessive absenteeism. The number of absences in the policy shall not exceed five days per quarter or the hourly equivalent. School districts may use excused and unexcused absences for purposes of the policy. Such services shall include, but need not be limited to:

(1) One or more meetings between a school attendance officer, school social worker or the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff designated by the school administration if such school does not have a school social worker, the child's parent or guardian, and the child, if necessary, to report and to attempt to solve the problem of excessive absenteeism;

(2) Educational counseling to determine whether curriculum changes, including, but not limited to, enrolling the child in an alternative education program that meets the specific educational and behavioral needs of the child, would help solve the problem of excessive absenteeism;

(3) Educational evaluation, which may include a psychological evaluation, to assist in determining the specific condition, if any, contributing to the problem of excessive absenteeism, supplemented by specific efforts by the school to help remedy any condition diagnosed; and

(4) Investigation of the problem of excessive absenteeism by the school social worker, or if such school does not have a school social worker, by the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff designated by the school administration, to identify conditions which may be contributing to the problem. If services for the child and his or her family are determined to be needed, the school social worker or the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff performing the investigation shall meet with the parent or guardian and the child to discuss any referral to appropriate community agencies for economic services, family or individual counseling, or other services required to remedy the conditions that are contributing to the problem of excessive absenteeism.

Truancy Statute:

If the child is absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent, the attendance officer shall file a report with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides. The county attorney may file a complaint against a person violating section 79-201 before the judge of the county court of the county in which such person resides charging such person with violation of section 79-201 or may file a petition under the Nebraska Juvenile Code alleging the person violating section 79-201 is a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) or (3)(b) of section 43-247. Nothing in this section shall preclude a county attorney from being involved at any stage in the process to address excessive absenteeism.

Statute 79-2121: Information Sharing

The superintendent of any school districts that are members of a learning community shall develop and participate in a plan by August 1, 2011, to reduce excessive absenteeism including a process to share information regarding at-risk youth with the goal of improving educational outcomes, providing effective intervention that impact risk factors, and reducing unnecessary penetration deeper into the juvenile justice system. For purposes of this section, at-risk youth means children who are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Probation Administration, are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services, are otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system, or have been absent from school for more than five days per year or the hourly equivalent except when excused by school authorities or when a documented illness makes attendance impossible or impracticable.
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Three legislative bills in 2012 seek to solve problems with the 2010 law:

Sen. Brad Ashford Introduced LB 933

*Sen. Ashford's bill changes the process by which children who have accrued 20 absences are investigated by the county attorney, and the location of the first meeting with parents after school administrators in collaboration with the County Attorney have decided which action should be taken. It does not change the fact that children who miss twenty day (even if those days are excused via school district policy) will have their "case" reviewed (investigated) by the county attorney.

If the child is absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent, the attendance officer shall file a report school district shall review the case with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides, and they shall determine if any further action is necessary to get the child to attend school regularly. If the school district and the county attorney determine that further action is necessary to address the child’s attendance, there shall be a meeting between the parents of the child, the school, and the county attorney or his or her designee at a location determined by the school. The county attorney may file a complaint against a person violating section 79-201 before the judge of the county court of the county in which such person resides charging such person with violation of section 79-201 or may file a petition under the Nebraska Juvenile Code alleging the person violating section 79-201 is a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) or (3)(b) of section 43-247. Nothing in this section shall preclude a county attorney from being involved at any stage in the process to address excessive absenteeism.

Sen. Abby Cornett Introduced LB 917

*Sen. Cornett's bill exempts absences due to documented illness or deployment activities of a military parent from both school level/district level interventions as well as review/investigation by the county attorney. It carves out special protections for these two groups of kids, but does not address the many other legitimate reasons that kids miss school, which prior to the 2010 law where covered under school district's policies.

All school districts shall have a written policy on excessive absenteeism developed in collaboration with the county attorney of the county in which the principal office of the school district is located. The policy shall include a provision indicating how the school district and the county attorney will handle cases in which excessive absences are due to documented illness that makes attendance impossible or impracticable not include absences due to documented illness or absences related to deployment activities as provided in Article V, Section E, of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and the policy shall state the number of absences or the hourly equivalent upon the occurrence of which the school shall render all services in its power to compel such child to attend some public, private, denominational, or parochial school, which the person having control of the child shall designate, in an attempt to address the problem of excessive absenteeism. The number of absences in the policy shall not exceed five days per quarter or the hourly equivalent. School Except as otherwise provided in this section, school districts may use excused and unexcused absences for purposes of the policy. Such services shall include, but need not be limited to…

If the child is absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent, excluding absences due to documented illness, other excused absences as defined by the school district's written policy on absenteeism required by this section, or absences related to deployment activities as provided in Article V, Section E, of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, the attendance officer shall file a report with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides. The county attorney may file a complaint against a person violating section 79-201 before the judge of the county court of the county in which such person resides charging such person with violation of section 79-201 or may file a petition under the Nebraska Juvenile Code alleging the person violating section 79-201 is a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) or (3)(b) of section 43-247. Nothing in this section shall preclude a county attorney from being involved at any stage in the process to address excessive absenteeism.

Sen. Tony Fulton Will Introduce LB _____

*Sen. Fulton's bill separately defines "excessive absenteeism" and "truant", restoring the traditional definition of "truancy"; to miss school without permission. It leaves school districts to address excessive absenteeism through the many tools at their disposal while it tightens the threshold for those kids who miss school when they are not excused to the satisfaction of school district policy. In this way it provides for earlier intervention with "truants" but prevents children with excused absences under their district policies from having any dealings with law enforcement. Sen. Fulton's amendment is the only amendment that restores full local control and school governance and gives parents a accessable democratic avenue to address inadequacies in their school district attendance policy that may unfairly classify their child as a "truant" under the law.

In very rare cases when school authorities determines that the parents are willfully and continually thwarting the education of their children by excusing their children from school for illegitimate reasons the school has the ability to report such parents to HHS for "educational neglect".

All school districts shall have a written policy on excessive absenteeism developed in collaboration with the county attorney of the county in which the principal office of the school district is located. The policy shall include a provision indicating how the school district and the county attorney will handle cases in which excessive absences are due to documented illness that makes attendance impossible or impracticable, and the policy shall state the number of absences or the hourly equivalent upon the occurrence of which the school shall render all services in its power to compel such child to attend some public, private, denominational, or parochial school, which the person having control of the child shall designate, in an attempt to address the problem of excessive absenteeism. The number of absences in the policy shall not exceed five days per quarter or the hourly equivalent. School districts may use excused and unexcused absences for purposes of the policy. Such services shall include, but need not be limited to…

If a child is truant, the school districts shall provide written notice to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child. If the a child is absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent habitually truant and absent more than five days in one quarter or ten days per year or the hourly equivalentthe school district shall review the case with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides, and they shall determine if any further action is necessary to get the child to attend school regularly. If the school district and the county attorney determine that further action is necessary to address the child’s attendance, there shall be a meeting between the parents of the child, the school, and the county attorney or his or her designee at a location determined by the school. the attendance officer shall file a report with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides. The county attorney may file a complaint against a person violating section 79-201 before the judge of the county court of the county in which such person resides charging such person with violation of section 79-201 or may file a petition under the Nebraska Juvenile Code alleging the person violating section 79-201 is a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) or (3)(b) of section 43-247. Nothing in this section shall preclude a county attorney from being involved at any stage in the process to address excessive absenteeism.

For purposes of this section, (a) excessive absenteeism means excused or unexcused absences from school in excess of the number of days or hourly equivalent stated in the school district policy and (b) truant means not excused to the satisfaction of district policy by the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the child.
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The plan mandated by state law in section 79-2121:

Superintendent’s Plan to Improve Student Attendance in Douglas and Sarpy Counties

Introduction:

“The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties is the creation of the Nebraska Legislature. Within its boundaries are eleven school districts in the Omaha metropolitan area. Statutorily, an Advisory Committee comprised of the eleven superintendents of the Learning Community member districts is given certain responsibilities and duties.

In 2011, those were expressly expanded to the creation of a plan by the superintendents designed to combat the adverse impact of absenteeism has on students and schools. The statutory authority and duty of the superintendents require a plan “to reduce excessive absenteeism including a process to share information regarding at-risk youth with the goal of improving educational outcomes, providing effective intervention that impact risk factors, and reducing unnecessary penetration deeper into the juvenile justice system.” At-risk youth are defined as “under the jurisdiction of the Office of Probation Administration, are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services, are otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system, or have been absent from school for more than five days per year or the hourly equivalent except when excused by school authorities or when a documented illness makes attendance impossible or impracticable.”

It is within this framework that the Superintendents Advisory Committee presents this plan with its twin objectives of (a) meeting statutory duties and (b) creating a comprehensive school district/community approach to absenteeism that is cooperative, innovative, and based on solid research and experience. The plan is organized in four parts:

Part I Prevention and Early Intervention (GOALS)
Part II Mandatory Absence Referral to County Attorney
Part III Tracking and Monitoring
Part IV Plan Review

Nebraska Statute

Statute 79-209

In all school districts in this state, any superintendent, principal, teacher, or member of the school board who knows of any violation of section 79-201 on the part of any child of school age, his or her parent, the person in actual or legal control of such child, or any other person shall within three days report such violation to the attendance officer of the school, who shall investigate the case. When of his or her personal knowledge, by report or complaint from any resident of the district, or by report or complaint as provided in this section, the attendance officer believes that any child is unlawfully absent from school, the attendance officer shall immediately investigate.

All school districts shall have a written policy on excessive absenteeism developed in collaboration with the county attorney of the county in which the principal office of the school district is located. The policy shall include a provision indicating how the school district and the county attorney will handle cases in which excessive absences are due to documented illness that makes attendance impossible or impracticable, and the policy shall state the number of absences or the hourly equivalent upon the occurrence of which the school shall render all services in its power to compel such child to attend some public, private, denominational, or parochial school, which the person having control of the child shall designate, in an attempt to address the problem of excessive absenteeism. The number of absences in the policy shall not exceed five days per quarter or the hourly equivalent. School districts may use excused and unexcused absences for purposes of the policy. Such services shall include, but need not be limited to:

(1) One or more meetings between a school attendance officer, school social worker or the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff designated by the school administration if such school does not have a school social worker, the child's parent or guardian, and the child, if necessary, to report and to attempt to solve the problem of excessive absenteeism;

(2) Educational counseling to determine whether curriculum changes, including, but not limited to, enrolling the child in an alternative education program that meets the specific educational and behavioral needs of the child, would help solve the problem of excessive absenteeism;

(3) Educational evaluation, which may include a psychological evaluation, to assist in determining the specific condition, if any, contributing to the problem of excessive absenteeism, supplemented by specific efforts by the school to help remedy any condition diagnosed; and

(4) Investigation of the problem of excessive absenteeism by the school social worker, or if such school does not have a school social worker, by the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff designated by the school administration, to identify conditions which may be contributing to the problem. If services for the child and his or her family are determined to be needed, the school social worker or the school principal or a member of the school administrative staff performing the investigation shall meet with the parent or guardian and the child to discuss any referral to appropriate community agencies for economic services, family or individual counseling, or other services required to remedy the conditions that are contributing to the problem of excessive absenteeism.

If the child is absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent, the attendance officer shall file a report with the county attorney of the county in which such person resides. The county attorney may file a complaint against a person violating section 79-201 before the judge of the county court of the county in which such person resides charging such person with violation of section 79-201 or may file a petition under the Nebraska Juvenile Code alleging the person violating section 79-201 is a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) or (3)(b) of section 43-247. Nothing in this section shall preclude a county attorney from being involved at any stage in the process to address excessive absenteeism.

Statute 79-2121: Superintendent's Plan and the GOALS Initiative

The superintendent of any school districts that are members of a learning community shall develop and participate in a plan by August 1, 2011, to reduce excessive absenteeism including a process to share information regarding at-risk youth with the goal of improving educational outcomes, providing effective intervention that impact risk factors, and reducing unnecessary penetration deeper into the juvenile justice system. For purposes of this section, at-risk youth means children who are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Probation Administration, are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services, are otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system, or have been absent from school for more than five days per year or the hourly equivalent except when excused by school authorities or when a documented illness makes attendance impossible or impracticable.

Background and Philosophy

The superintendents, along with numerous involved members of the metropolitan area, have a common understanding that students who come to school reflect our wider community. It is impossible to isolate the “school” within the wall of the school building. Therefore, effective strategies to keep students in school must be linked to the wider community. At the same time, evidence shows that prevention, early identification, and intervention each are unique and vital components of ensuring a successful school experience. Prevention encompasses those school and community programs aimed at keeping students involved, active, and able to attend school regularly. Across the metro area, each school district, along with community providers, is actively engaged in numerous absence-prevention programs. Intervention arises when, despite those efforts, a student is becoming absent excessively, prior to the 20-day timeframe when Nebraska law mandates that a student be referred to the county attorney. The superintendents know that an organized and fully active partnership between school and community with specific objectives, planned sustainability, and the ability to take advantage of the full panoply of rights and responsibilities offered by the laws and regulations of Nebraska will result in successful intervention for students in the metro area.

The superintendent’s plan for prevention and early intervention, Greater Omaha Attendance and Learning Services (GOALS), is founded on current school district absence prevention policies, practices, programs, and initiatives and the current informal, collaborative structure that has been in place over the past two years. In 2010, a group consisting of law enforcement, the courts, and school district representatives came together to initiate a court-supervised diversion program. A part of their efforts evolved into what has been informally known as the Truancy Triage Treatment Team. This team realized that information sharing, regular monitoring, personal family visits, and a multi-disciplinary approach that brought together stakeholders with statutory accountability for children (including the Douglas and Sarpy County Separate Juvenile Courts, the Douglas and Sarpy County Attorney’s Offices, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS), the Douglas and Sarpy County Juvenile Assessment Centers, Region VI, state probation, and school districts) provided a swift and effective response to absenteeism.

GOALS builds on this collaboration through creation of a formal Interlocal Agreement between the eleven school districts, NDHHS, the Douglas and Sarpy County Juvenile Assessment Centers, state probation, the Douglas and Sarpy County Separate Juvenile Representatives from these entities would then become the “GOALS team”. The essence of the Interlocal Agreement is that each of these entities will commit personnel and in-kind resources to assure a regular and formal structure by which individually-identifiable student information can be shared, within the constraints of state and federal privacy laws, to accomplish effective intervention for at-risk students before they become “truant”. The members of the Interlocal Agreement anticipate working with a broad group of community entities, as further described in the plan that will effectively provide the support network students and families need to achieve regular attendance and avoid truancy. Ultimately, it is the intent of this plan to intervene at the building level, district level, and GOALS Team level at the earliest stages of problematic student absenteeism and/or at-risk behavior so as to improve student attendance and prevent children from being referred to the County Attorney.

PART I

PREVENTION AND EARLY INTERVENTION (GOALS)

GOALS MISSION: To address increasing absenteeism and at-risk behavior prior to the twenty day threshold without the creation of additional governmental bureaucracy through encouragement of coordinated local efforts to improve school outcomes.

GOALS PURPOSE: To define absence and identify excessive absenteeism, provide early assessment of its causes, and to provide the prompt delivery of coordinated interventions to prevent continued unauthorized absences and/or at-risk behavior.

GOALS Pyramid of Intervention:

Step One: Building Level Intervention – Building personnel intervene immediately (following district policies/procedures and state law) when a child is showing signs of problematic absenteeism and/or at risk behavior. Each school building must access and exhaust all building interventions and resources prior to referring a child to the district/community level (Step Two). Building interventions may include but are not limited to daily phone calls to parents/guardians, notification letters to parents/guardians, parent/guardian-student-teacher-administrator conferences, educational counseling, educational evaluation, appropriate academic placement, academic tutoring, advisement programs, extended school day placement, appropriate programmatic placement, school resources officer involvement, etc.. Interventions are designed to promote regular school attendance and prevent children from being referred to the County Attorney.

Step Two: District/Community Intervention – When a school building has accessed and exhausted all building level interventions and resources, district and community interventions are utilized. The school district must access and exhaust all district interventions and resources prior to referring a child to the GOALS team. District interventions may include but are not limited to: Involvement of district social workers, district level school psychologist, central office administration, district level academic support programs, referral for review of housing needs, transportation needs, health care and behavioral health needs, family needs, referral to faith-based organizations, referral to appropriate community service providers, etc.. Interventions are designed to promote regular school attendance and prevent children from being referred to the County Attorney.

Step Three: Referral to GOALS Team

 Assessment Tools may include:
 SRAS – Student Refusal Attendance Survey
 Further analysis of type of absenteeism and proximal/distal factors (see, e.g., Christopher Kearney research)
 YLS-CMI – Youth Level Service Inventory and Case Management Inventory
 MYSI – Massachusetts Youth Screening Inventory
 DISC – mental/physical health screening
 DPS – Diagnostic Productive Scale
 40 Developmental Assets
 SDM – assessment for status offenders
 Structured Decision Making Model – (safety/risk assessment – neglect)
 NDHHS Safety – Risk Assessment

Step Four: The GOALS Team will identify targeted interventions through service coordination. The interventions will be designed to promote regular school attendance and prevent children from being referred to the County Attorney.

GOALS TEAM STRUCTURE: Nebraska law gives public agencies the capacity to exercise and enjoy jointly any power or privilege or authority exercised or capable of exercise by one or more of the public agencies. This is conferred through the Interlocal Cooperation Act.

It is understood that appropriate action by ordinance, resolution, or otherwise pursuant to law of the governing bodies of the participating public agencies is necessary before the Agreement may enter into force. The Agreement, a draft of which is included, specifies its duration, the general organization, composition, purposes and nature of the cooperative action, the manner by which it will be afforded (financed through in-kind services, permitted to accept donations of resources, funds, and donations of equipment and supplies, and maintenance of a budget), provision of administration of the joint undertaking, and how any real or personal property used in the joint undertaking will be acquired, held and disposed of.

GOALS does not require additional funding to accomplish its basic mission. In-kind support for GOALS is based on the current informal structure, which relies on the simple coordination of information through staff that regularly meet, confer, and target intervention approaches. However, it is anticipated that as its success grows, involved community members may see wisdom in creating an actual center, accessible by parents, at or through which trained staff can more broadly coordinate services among the Interlocal partners and other community participants. For example, collaboration has been with, and may continue to include, among others:

 Amachi Mentoring
 Avenue Scholars
 Boys and Girls Club
 Building Bright Futures
 City of Omaha (Middle School After-School Program)
 Goodwill Mentoring
 Kim Foundation
 Latino Center for the Midlands
 Lutheran Family Services
 Methodist Hospital Community Counselors
 Project Harmony
 The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties
 Urban League

Pooling the existing resources makes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. GOALS supports the removal of barriers to effectively intervene on behalf of youth and families and sharing data and information to improve the individual functions of each and every agency working together on behalf of the greater community.

GOALS Day to Day: At the onset, GOALS is envisioned as regular meetings of all organizations in the joint interlocal throughout the year, on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, with the ability to adjust the frequency of such meetings given the unique and changing circumstances and needs of the agencies and students. GOALS collaborative team will define how and when students will be referred to GOALS. In addition, GOALS organizations will be meeting with key constituents, including local government officials, to assist in maintenance of GOALS vision and purposes. Administrative duties will be shared by the interlocal member agencies. Service functions (screening and assessment, training, developing a service provision catalogue of community providers and contact access, and case management) will be conducted by the various members to their specific skills as agreed upon by the members.

Families play an integral part of GOALS success. Each student referred to the GOALS team will have an informal family services plan. This plan includes (a) identification of the conduct of the child, caretaker, or any family member which is causing harm and the services needed to mitigate or eliminate the problems within the family unit; (b) a description of the services which are needed for the child, his caretakers, or other family members, the availability of such services within the community, and a plan for ensuring that any such services are available to be secured and delivered; (c) a description of all expected action to be taken by the child, his caretakers, or other family members; (d) the name of the person within the affected public service agency who is directly responsible for assuring that the informal family service plan agreement in implemented; and (e) an estimate of the time anticipated to accomplish the goals set out in the agreement. It is expected that families will demonstrate their obligations to help their child achieve regular attendance and avoid absenteeism that leads to truancy.

GOALS services may also incorporate referrals for clinical counseling and therapeutic services such as parenting classes, anger management, academic counseling, tutoring, psychiatric/psychological/physical evaluations, individual and family therapy, in-home services, wrap-around services, and medical care including school-based health centers. GOALS will have the authority to accept grants to fund the purchase of such services for families.

ALL OF THE ABOVE INTERVENTIONS WILL HAPPEN BEFORE A STUDENT REACHES 20 ABSENCES AND BECOMES A STATUS OFFENDER UNDER THE STATES COMPOLSORY EDUCTION STATUTE 79-209

PART II

MANDATORY ABSENCE REFERRAL TO COUNTY ATTORNEY

For the 2011-2012 school year, each school district shall use the Referral for Violation of Mandatory Attendance Policy form when reporting students to the county attorney that are absent more than twenty days per year or the hourly equivalent.

DOUGLAS COUNTY

At the present time, Douglas County utilizes an 1184 Truancy Triage Treatment Team, All referrals in excess of twenty days are reviewed by this team. This 1184 team follows the requirements of Neb. Stat. Sec. 28:728-733. This team operates as a multi-disciplinary/multi-agency collaborative. The team meets as needed. During the 2010-2011 school year this team met at least once a week and sometimes twice a week. The team reviews each referral and determines the response level (Levels I-IV) necessary to assist the child and correct the problem. Response/intervention recommendations are made in the best interest of the child and forwarded to the county attorney’s office.

SARPY COUNTY

At the present time, all referrals are reviewed by the county attorney assigned to the case. The county attorney determines the response level (Levels I-IV) necessary to assist the child and correct the problem. Response/intervention recommendations are made in the best interest of the child.

RESPONSE LEVELS

LEVEL I Screen and Monitor
LEVEL II Assess, Plan, Motivate and Monitor
LEVEL III Intense Intervention, Monitoring, and Evaluation
LEVEL IV Filing in Juvenile Court

PART III

TRACKING AND MONITORING

If the Douglas or Sarpy County Attorney’s Office chooses not to file a mandatory referral, each respective school district can file an additional referral if absences accumulate to a level of concern as determined by district policies.

PART IV

PLAN REVIEW

Twice in the school year, representatives from each entity will meet to discuss progress issues and concern.

Each summer, representatives from each entity will meet to review the plan and propose recommendations to the superintendents. This meeting should include school personnel that deal with attendance issues on a daily basis. The superintendents will then convene and consider the recommendations from the meeting to make changes/improvements to the plan. Recommendations for legislative changes may also be developed at this time.

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Everything you need to know about Nebraska's Compulsory Education and Mandatory Attendance Laws

A complete list of the official statutes related to the compulsory education of Nebraska's school aged children.

Section 79-201: Compulsory Education Law:

Compulsory Education Law: 79-201
http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=s7902001000

It requires parents of any child “who is of mandatory attendance age” to “cause such child to attend school regularly”; which means to attend “each day that such school is open and in session, except when excused by school authorities or when illness make attendance impossible or impracticable.”
Annotations

Protections for home school:

Where a juvenile is adjudicated solely on the basis of habitual truancy from school…and the status of truancy is subsequently terminated by the lawful execution of a parental release authorizing discontinuation of school…a juvenile court may terminate its jurisdiction without a finding that such termination is in the best interests of the juvenile.

State Powers:

The state, having a high responsibility for the education of its citizens, has the power to impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education. Parents have a right to send their children to private schools but do not have the right to be completely unfettered by reasonable government regulations as to the quality of the education furnished and the maintenance of minimum standards.

Protections for parents:

Violation of this law is not, in itself, evidence of neglect under section.

This section did not operate to violate constitutional right of parents to educate their children in accordance with the tenets of their religious faith.

This section has no application to physically or mentally handicapped child attending special school.

LB 800: 79-527

Reporting and Documentation of Truancy:

http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=s7905027000

“Public school district or a nonpublic school system shall report on a monthly basis to the Commissioner of Education as directed by the commissioner regarding the number of and reason for any long-term suspension, expulsion, or excessive absenteeism of a student.”

LB 800: 79-527.01

Truancy Intervention Task Force:

http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=79-527.01

“The task force shall study and evaluate the data contained in the reports required…and shall develop recommendations to reduce incidents of excessive absenteeism. The task force may contact a school district or a county attorney for additional information. The task force shall report to the Legislature on or before July 1, 2011, and each July 1 thereafter.”