Juvenile justice, truancy bill passed

Senators passed a bill April 9 that updates Nebraska’s juvenile justice system.

LB464, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, requires that misdemeanor and Class IIIA and IV felony cases involving a juvenile be initiated in juvenile court. The bill exempts Class I, II and III felonies for minors aged 14 and older from the mandatory juvenile court initiation.

Prosecutors have the option to transfer cases to adult court or have them heard before the juvenile court for a felony violation or for misdemeanor violations if a juvenile was 16 or 17 years old at the time the crime was committed.

The bill also outlines a plan for school districts and families to address student attendance problems. The plan may consider:
• illness related to physical or behavioral health of the child;
• educational counseling;
• educational evaluation;
• referral to community agencies for economic services;
• family or individual counseling; and
• assisting the family in working with other community services.

If a plan is unsuccessful and a student has missed 20 days of school, the school has the option to submit a report to the county attorney. Illness that makes attendance impossible or impracticable cannot be included as the basis for referral to the county attorney.

Further, the bill creates a 10-person Council on Student Attendance that will review school district absentee policies and submit a report to the Legislature annually.

Provisions of LB1093, introduced by Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch, also are included in the bill. These expand the definition of juvenile facilitated conferencing and transfer $450,000 from the state Department of Health and Human Services’ budget to the state court administrator’s budget, foregoing the current granting process.

Senators passed LB464 on a 46-0 vote.

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