Bill to ban dropping out of school gets first approval

Listen to this story: 
February 21, 2012 - 6:00pm

Sixteen-year-olds would no longer be able to drop out of school, under a bill advancing in the Legislature.

Currently, Nebraska law requires children to attend school until they are 18 or they get a high school diploma. But if a parent or guardian approves, they are allowed to drop out after their 16th birthday.

The bill by Sen. John Wightman of Lexington would remove that exception to the mandatory attendance law.

Supporters of the proposal, like Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, said changes in the economy and society require students to have more education, not to be able to drop out.

Sen. John Harms

"That system made sense 100 years ago, when there were no calculators, let alone computers, when doctors had no x-rays, let alone genetic tests, and there was no national phone system, let alone an internet. In those days, high school graduates could expect to find a decent job," Harms said. "That day is over. Can you imagine what's going to happen to these students, young people, when they leave at the age of 16? There is no hope for them."

But opponents of the bill questioned whether it would work. Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash said it would strain the budgets of law enforcement agencies to try to enforce it.

Sen. Colby Coash

And Coash said it would also have negative effects in schools. "For many of these children, school doesn't work for them. And saying to them Come into a system that's not working to meet your needs and sit there when you don't want to be there' is going to pull resources away from the children who do," Coash said.

Supporters of the bill said that merely requiring attendance would not be enough, and that schools would have to do a better job of offering students alternatives to traditional classes.

Omaha Sen. Brenda Council said she thinks only a small portion of the more than 1,900 students listed as dropouts in 2009-2010 actually had signed parental permission to do so. She promised to introduce an amendment to require not only parents, but also schools to agree before a student could withdraw. She said that would require schools and parents to meet and try to work out problems.

Senators voted 29-17 to give the bill first-round approval.




blog comments powered by Disqus