Truancy policy

The Hastings Public School Board is considering conforming its truancy policy to the state law.

Today under the HPS truancy policy a student is presumed to be habitually truant if the student misses 10 days of a semester. The county attorney must be notified by the principal, and in the past the county attorney has threatened court action against parents even when all the absences were for illness certified by the parent.

This zero tolerance approach is so contrary to all established norms of justice and fairness in the United States. We can trace our system of innocent until proven guilty from:

• the Bible at Genesis chapters 18 and 19 where Abraham says to God’s angels “Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked” referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the angel relented, allowing Lot and his family to leave.

• to Torah scholar Rabbi Moses Maimonides in the 12th century who asserted the Torah requires absolute certainty of guilt referencing the above and also Exodus 23:7.

• to British jurist William Blackstone in the 18th century: “All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously; for the law holds it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

• to Ben Franklin who quotes justice Blackstone but increases his 10 to 100 guilty going free.

• to John Adams who shows the same sentiment as justice Blackstone while defending the British soldiers that caused the Boston Massacre.

The presumption of habitual truancy for children with chronic illnesses is against every principle that our system of fairness and justice was founded on. It is time for the HPS school board to adopt the provisions of LB933 that was passed by our unicameral in 2012 to correct this unfair practice.

Bert Peterson

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