Upset Parents Tackle Truancy Laws
Sarah Te Slaa
Omaha, NE- A Nebraska state law meant to keep kids in school has some parents upset. They say government is getting too involved in their families when it comes to the state's truancy law.
Gwen Aspen's daughters are only two and four years old and aren't even in school yet, but she wants Nebraska's truancy law changed before her girls leave their crayons behind for the classroom.
"This law acts like a bully," says Aspen. "It kind of bullies people from taking the time out of school that they feel is really necessary and is in the best interest of their kids."
The law says when kids miss 20 days of school for any reason, even illness, the county attorney must investigate. In extreme cases, parents could be charged.
Aspen says fear of facing the courts takes away her choice as a parent.
"It's just not the government's business," says Aspen. "There's so much learning that goes on outside the classroom."
The Nebraska Family Forum, a group of concerned parents, is leading a campaign to change the law.
"I have email after email right here from families that have been affected by this law," says Stephanie Morgan with the Nebraska Family Forum. "Whether prosecuted and convicted, that hasn't happened, but many families of sick children have ended up in courtrooms where they have had to defend themselves and defend their decisions in a court of law."
Douglas county attorney, Don Kleine, agrees the current law does create fear for parents, but he says he has not and will not take families to court if there are legitimate reasons kids aren't showing up for class.
"We monitor it [cases of reported truancy] and make sure it's legit and move on," says Kleine. "I can tell you there is no one who has been prosecuted for having a sick child. That's a fallacy."
Nebraska lawmakers will take a second look at the law and will hear three bills that would change it.
Senator Tony Fulton's plan would take the control away from the government and give it back to parents.
"Rather than having a top down approach at the state level, we would empower some modicum of local control at the school board level so that individual students can be gleaned according to each individual student," says Fulton.
For parents like Aspen, control over her kids' education is a must.
"The parents know what's right for their own children and they can handle it if their kids are absent if that's what needs to happen," says Aspen.
The Judiciary Committee with hear the three bills that would change the law on Monday, February 13 at 9:30 in room 1113.