School superintendents unveil plan to approve student attendance

Omaha, NE – The superintendents of Douglas and Sarpy County's learning community school districts are backing a new plan designed to reduce truancy.

They joined Governor Dave Heineman and Senator Brad Ashford Tuesday to unveil the plan. It focuses on prevention, early intervention, and connecting families who need services to community agencies. Heineman says students who miss more than 20 days of school scored 30 points less on Nebraska's 11th grade reading assessment.

If a student has missed several days, the plan says school officials will contact parents and provide services such as mentoring, school activity placement, and counseling. If that's not effective, district officials can bring in social workers, school psychologists, and other resources to work with children and families.

Kevin Riley, superintendent of Gretna schools, says the goal is to intervene early so students don't have excessive absences. "As a group, we don't want to wait for the 20 day threshold to intervene. And depending on the history and circumstances, you'll see us intervening within a few days of the start of the school year. Ultimately, we want all children to go to school every day."

Students who miss more than 20 days of school are referred to the County Attorney's office. But the County Attorney can choose not to prosecute the case, depending on the circumstances behind the student's chronic absence.