Elkhorn sophomore Hailey Horton is spending part of her school day at court, with a hands-on lesson in state government.
"I'm thinking everything's OK and all of a sudden, boom." Hailey's father, Michael Horton, received a letter from the county attorney requesting their presence at the mass meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss Hailey's absences from class.
It's well-documented and reported to her school that Hailey has a chronic illness that prevents her from getting to class now and then. Her absences are excused, yet under state law, the county attorney's involvement is mandatory.
Or is it? The superintendent of another school district, Gretna, says that Sarpy County deals with the law differently. The school district will advise the county attorney not to take action in special circumstances where the absences are excused and documented.
"I like school, I do well in school, I make up all the work I miss and I don't understand why I and kids like me are being punished," says Hailey. The only understanding she and her father have come to is that the law may have good intentions, but it needs some changing.
The Douglas County Attorney has already made a change. At the request of superintendents in the metro, Don Kleine's office is sending a "heads up" notice to parents after 10 absences.
Talks have already started and will continue over the summer, between 11 metro superintendents to help smooth out and streamline how absences are handled. State Senator Brad Ashford has proposed some amendments to the law that would go along with that.
He says the law is necessary and will work, but some fine tuning on the part of the school districts is needed.
Don Kleine has been so inundated with student absences recently, that he has had to designate a staff member to strictly handle the truancy program, other cases the employee would have handled have been distributed to others. Kleine says the crowd has increased each week as the school year moves closer to the end.