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A closer look at chronic absenteeism and truancy

We all want children to have access to opportunities to succeed through a quality education. Let’s be honest – an important component of a student’s ability to succeed in school is their attendance.

In recent years, Nebraska legislators have enacted a number of bills aimed at increasing school attendance, reducing the number of students who are chronically absent, and responding to truancy. If you follow the news, you may have noticed that these changes have lately been at the center of some controversy. 

Over the past few months, Voices for Children has been digging into the data on chronic absenteeism and truancy in Nebraska, as well as research from around the country on what works when it comes to making sure kids are in school and learning.

Today, we’re releasing a small issue brief that summarizes some of our key findings, in hopes that we can inform where Nebraska heads from here.

So just what did we find? Nebraska has more work to do.

Download: Absenteeism and Truancy: Nebraska’s evolving approach

While chronic absenteeism has been reduced at the statewide level, it remains very high in a number of school districts. Clearly, some districts lack the resources and practices to help kids attend school regularly.

The number of children and youth prosecuted for truancy has more than doubled since 2009. This trend is troubling, since research has shown that prosecuting status offenders (kids who skip school or run away) is counterproductive, often harming students and exposing them to the risk of inappropriate juvenile justice involvement.

So what can we do about it? Nebraska needs to invest in effective, school-based programs and services for schools and students struggling with chronic absenteeism. We also have to do what we can to limit the use of the juvenile justice system to address truancy, instead connecting youth and families to community-based services and supports.

We invite you to take a look at our issue brief and share your thoughts about what we’ve found. Are there any questions you have? Are there any suggestions you have on what more Nebraska can do to help our kids and families struggling with school attendance?


Thank you to taking the time to share!


  1. REPLY
    Cindy Tierney says

    Article and brief are well done and I applaud your work.

  2. REPLY
    Jane Martin-Hoffman says

    Good article. School and the community collaborating to address truancy is definitely better and more effective. Dodge County has a new project doing this very thing.

  3. REPLY
    Theresa says

    We are dealing with a school district that took a speech issue and turned it into a behavioral issue and when we refused to medicate per the school counselor and principal recommendation they repeatedly sent the child home. When we objected to the repeated suspensions they informed us that if we medicated they would stop. The school counselor and principal fabricated and embellished situations to justify suspension. We did everything the school asked of us EXCEPT medicate. Even had the child tested for autism. School suspension did not raise the flag of truancy but did hinder the child’s education. The child is now in 4th grade and reading at K to low 1st grade level. This child has been in the system with IEP since kindergarten due to speech issue, but no progress because this year the same school counselor stated that the child “is too far behind” to catch up!!!! Summer school was even denied him in second grade because he wasn’t far enough behind to warrant the expense. The spec -ed teacher would catch him up! By the of 3 rd grade tested at kindergarten level! So who failed this child!!! The school blamed the child behavior, so we decided to put him in level 3 school to get a neutral opinion. Only one minor incident and staff at this school even stated that behaviorally this child did not belong at their institution, but academically he did! The school counselor at the previous school openly admitted that they did not worry about his academics because they concentrated on his behavior!!! Behavior that the staff instigated! The schools, especially this one, manipulate statistics to get what they want … More money! In our situation the school counselor openly admitted to manipulating statistics to make our child look worse than what he was! When we informed them we were talking to level 3 school she became furious stating only she could make that decision! When the district rep corrected her stating the IEP TEAM made that joint decision, she became even more indignant stating this “was her chosen profession and been doing it for 20 years”! You should read the modified IEP, states the team made the decision after careful consideration to send the child to level 3!! Parents beware what the schools do. I wonder how many children this counselor ruined academically in her 20 years pursuing her chosen profession!!! The article suggests that low income families have this issue. In our district children in single parent homes get pushed aside by the teachers!! I raised 3 children in this district. As long as I was married my children got a great education. Once the teachers learned about our divorce. I had one elementary teacher tell me she would not tolerate my child because she could tell the weekends my child went to the x house! This same child 4 years later, chose to live with the other parent who remarried and admitted the school/teachers were better!!! Poverty does not play as big a role as educators want you believe, it’s the educators that pick and choose who get the better education. I am all for a system that holds the teachers / school district accountable. Our journey has been a nightmare.

  4. REPLY
    Melanie Williams-Smotherman says


    The Family Advocacy Movement and the Nebraska Family Forum (NebraskaFamilyForum.org) have been hearing from a lot of parents of special needs children who indicate their child’s school is not appropriately honoring IEPs. Do you believe the school failed to work at making the environment one in which your child could succeed according to needs outlined in his IEP? If you would like to add your “IEP Horror Story” to the many others we have been collecting, feel free to email me at Melanie@FamilyAdvocacyMovement.com and put in your subject line something like: “VIOLATED IEP.”

  5. REPLY
    Kymberly Caddel says

    The GOALS Center is an amazing organization serving the Omaha Metro Area to reduce chronic absenteeism among school age children and adolescents in all school districts within the metro area. I did a program evaluation of this organization for a class I was taking through UNO. They work to connect youth and their family to community resources so that they will be prevented for being charged with truancy. After a literature review of other similar programs. Yes, it does appear that more community based services are better than a court approach.

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