LB568: Keeping kids out of juvenile court for excessive truancy

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- LB568 would not consider excessive absenteeism as truancy. The goal of the bill would be to keep children out of juvenile court, as truancy makes up a good portion of why children are in the juvenile court system in Nebraska.

Through this bill, the county attorney would be responsible to work with the school to refer the child and his or her family to community-based resources to address the child’s behaviors, provide crisis intervention, and keep the child at home safely.

Some senators feel this would take away the hammer per se, and have each county be unable to keep a handle on children with behavioral issues. Senator Mike Groene was worried that if the children missing a lot of school are not able to go before a judge, the judge would not be able to order probation and collect drug tests, which could cause a spiral.

“Excessive absenteeism. Why don’t we call it what it is? Truancy, what’s wrong with the word truancy? What’s wrong with calling it what it is? Excessive absenteeism is another feel-good moment for us in the legislature to put our arms around children, by the way, some of these children are stabbing each other. They are public safety threats,” said Senator Michael Flood of Madison County.

“We have turned this criminal justice system into one big social worker network of people because it makes us feel better. It makes us feel better about what’s happening to kids. Accountability, when you hold a young person accountable for their actions, you get better results,” said Senator Flood.

The amendment would allow each county to create a diversion program with funding, and if the diversion program is not working for a child and they are still missing school, then a judge can charge them with truancy.

Some senators who are in favor of this bill say others have gotten off track, that this bill is dealing with children missing school. Senator Steve Lathrop gave the example of parents who have children with chronic issues, keeping them home. He feels they shouldn’t have to go to juvenile court. If they get into trouble, they will be in juvenile court for different reasons.

Senators will continue the debate on this bill on Friday, January 28th.

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