January 30, 2012
To: Members of the Education Committee
From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator – Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Neutral Testimony on LB 996 – Eliminating the Option to “Drop Out”
All of Nebraska’s children deserve a quality education that puts them on the path to future success. Unfortunately, we know that not all children in Nebraska are able to take advantage of the education provided to them. Children’s risk of failure in school increases due to economic, social and medical challenges, among other factors. Struggling in school is in turn correlated with behavioral challenges, disciplinary action, and involvement in the juvenile court system.
Nebraska should encourage students to graduate, but preventing them from legally dropping out without ensuring the proper supportive services are in place may not substantially contribute to the success of youth in the future. During the 2009- 2010 school year, 1,968 students dropped out of school. Nebraska needs to be ready to provide for these youth in creative ways that encourage them to succeed as opposed to pushing them towards disciplinary sanctions and juvenile court involvement.
Voices for Children supports efforts to increase the number of students who graduate, but has concerns about the possible impact the bill may have in pushing youth towards the juvenile court system. Both truancy laws and school discipline policies put youth who struggle in school at increased risk of becoming involved in juvenile court, which can further alienate youth and diminish their chances of successfully transitioning to adulthood.
As you consider eliminating the ability for students to drop out with parental permission, please consider how you can support students and minimize their likelihood of becoming court-involved, a costly option for both children and communities.
Thank you for your work on behalf of Nebraska’s children. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
 “Decreasing Vulnerability for Involvement with the Juvenile Delinquency System.” EDJJ: 2003. http://www.edjj.org/Publications/list/leone_et_al-2003.pdf
 Kids Count in Nebraska: 2011 Report. Voices for Children in Nebraska.