Juvenile truancy provisions revised, advanced

Senators gave second-round approval April 27 to a bill that would revise juvenile truancy and excessive absenteeism policies and practices.

LB463, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford at the request of the governor, would require that at least 50 percent of the Learning Community Coordinating Council operating funds be used for truancy intervention programs that incorporate evidence-based practices pursuant to a plan developed by participating superintendents.

Under the bill, excessive absenteeism policies must include a provision indicating how the district and the county attorney will handle cases in which excessive absences are due to documented serious illnesses. The bill also would authorize the council to administer pilot projects related to truancy initiatives that would share information regarding at-risk youth and would provide a grant program for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

“[Early] intervention is critical with these young people,” Ashford said. “If we can reduce excessive absenteeism, we can get to the root of the issue that keeps these young people from learning.”

Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood offered an amendment containing provisions from two bills that would revise the process for sealing juvenile records. These provisions originated from LB669, introduced by Flood and LB301, introduced by Ashford.

Under the amendment, adopted 35-0, inspections of juveniles’ sealed records would be allowed by:
• a person who is the subject of the record;
• the court, city attorney or county attorney for purposes of collection of any remaining parental support or obligations;
• a law enforcement agency if such a person applies for employment with an agency; and
• the state Department of Correctional Services, the Office of Juvenile Services, a juvenile assessment center or a criminal or juvenile detention facility where an individual is committed.

Ashford also offered an amendment to the bill that would add to the definition of at-risk youth a student who has been absent from school for more than five days per quarter or the hourly equivalent, except when excused by school authorities or for a documented illness.

Omaha Sen. Brenda Council spoke in support of the amendment. When children start missing 10 or more days of school, she said, there are serious losses of instructional time.

“I believe LB463 with the amendment moves us closer towards ensuring that all children in the state of Nebraska receive a quality and comprehensive education,” Council said.

The Ashford amendment was adopted 32-0 and the bill advanced from select file on a voice vote.

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