Truancy policy silly

Hastings Public Schools is a very good school system, but it is susceptible to silly policies that turn the public against its efforts. 

One such policy is its truancy policy. HPS counts any absence from school (other than a school event) as an unexcused absence. 

This means that if a child has a chronic illness and is sick for more than 20 days in a year, he or she is treated the same as a student who is simply ditching school and the county attorney is called in. 

The county attorney, with the school’s acquiescence, then proceeds to intimidate students and parents with threats of court action into weekly meetings at the school. What they can’t explain is how these meetings are intended to “cure” chronic illnesses such as asthma, epilepsy or hemophilia.

This policy is the result of a law from Gov. Heineman passed in 2010 to stop truancy. But because of the public outcry about the unfairness of this act for non-truant students, it was amended in 2012 to allow school districts to designate excused and unexcused absences and to not get the county attorney involved when the 20 absences are the results of legitimate excused absences. 

But HPS has decided that it will not update its policy to accommodate illnesses and deaths in the family or whatever other legitimate reason for an absence. Instead, in all cases, the county attorney gets involved.

This is a nutty HPS policy that treats health issues as if they were behavioral issues. For example:

• If the child is not sick during the specified period of time, the child gets to choose a “reward” out of a bowl after the weekly meeting.

• Presumably, if the child is sick that specified period of time, the child and family face possible court action by the county attorney or other sanctions against them.

“Carrot and stick behavior modification works with mules, so let’s try it with children with chronic diseases like asthma, epilepsy or hemophilia.” 

HPS, your policy is not rational in education theory and in application it simply illustrates bullying by the county attorney and is unfair to innocent children who already have enough on their plate.

The policy should be changed as allowed by law to accommodate legitimate reasons for absence from school since it is certainly turning parents against a good school system for no rational reason.

 A good source of the many horror stories of the damage done to children by the governor’s law is at

Bert Peterson

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