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When running late could land you in jail

On good days we make it to my son’s preschool with moments to spare.  Other days we get bogged down and are running late.  Where is my son’s coat?  Where are the car keys?  Did I fill up my daughter’s milk bottle so she can have that on the way? It’s a scenario, common in many households.  The morning routine.  If we are late, it’s no big deal. He’s still in preschool.  Let’s face it, a couple minutes missed of circle time isn’t going to hurt him.

But in some elementary, junior high and high schools being tardy could land a parent in court.

That’s the case in Nebraska. A law passed in 2010 requires the County Attorney’s office to get involved in cases of excessive truancy or absence.   That’s defined as 20 days absent.  5 tardies equal 1 day absent.

Here’s what the Omaha World-Herald writes:

“Nebraska’s law differs from most state truancy laws in two ways: While it sets a higher bar — 20 days — for legal intervention, it does not limit its scope to unexcused absences.

By contrast, Kansas considers students truant if they are “inexcusably absent” for three days consecutively, five days in a semester or seven days in a school year.

In Wyoming, a student who racks up five or more unexcused absences in a school year is considered habitually truant.

Iowa law defines truancy as being absent without “reasonable excuse.” The law leaves it to school boards to decide what are valid excuses.”

Since Nebraska’s law passed the number of students missing 20 days or more has fallen, according Nebraska ‘s Education Department.   In the 2010/11 school year it was 6.63%, compared to 7.76% in the prior year.

But the law has also caught up well-intentioned parents.  Take the case of Heather Cooley.  Her son’s father got sick in another state. He eventually passed away.

In the process, her son missed more than 20 days of school.   Heather was taken to court and could have had her son taken away from her.   Cooley told me via Facebook  “The fear that he would be yanked from what family he has left and put in some strange home if lucky or some place like boys town, that was unbearable. Yet there was nothing we could do.”

Cooley had her court date. A sympathetic judge dismissed the case.

These policies were implemented to deal with the real problem of truancy and delinquency. But have they gone too far?

I want to hear from you – what do you think?

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Category: Education

Comments (1)

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  1. veronica lee says:

    They certainly have gone too far! I’m sure there are better ways to deal with truancy and delinguency.

    Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog!
    Have a nice day!

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