LB 390 signed into law, new civil liberties liable to students

LeAnne Bugay, Editor-in-Chief

On April 24, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed Legislative Bill 390 into law. The bill was Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks’ priority bill for the 106th Legislative Session.

LB 390 requires public school districts to designate the roles of school resource officers and to make sure students’ civil rights are being respected if they’re suspected of breaking the law.

LB 390 requires that a memorandum of understanding (MOU), or agreement between two groups, be written by law enforcement and school administrators to explain the exact role of school resource officers and the new policies.

Each school district’s MOU will include, but is not limited to, the following policies.

The bill states that the presence of any SROs can’t cause an uneven impact on different federally identified demographic groups, such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, and income. To help ensure this, records must be kept on every student prosecution and must list the reason for the referral and the demographic characteristics of such student.

SROs and at least one administrator per building are required to train for at least 20 hours on topics including, but not limited to: school law, student rights, special needs students, ethics, teenage brain development, adolescent behavior, diversity and cultural awareness, implicit biases, violence prevention, and trauma.

LB 390 mandates that schools make a policy that explains when parents or guardians of students suspected of a crime will be notified. Adding onto that policy must be the circumstances in which students will be told their constitutional rights before any interrogation.

Schools must also identify a student and parent complaint process to allow for families to communicate problems about the practices of SROs.

The Nebraska Department of Education will publish a model memorandum of understanding for schools to use or reference by December 1, 2019. Each school district that partners with law enforcement, such as Bellevue Public Schools and Bellevue Police Department, must adopt from the state or create a similar MOU of the new policies by January 1, 2021. The superintendent must make the MOU available to the public and publish any updates.

Principal Kevin Rohlfs said that BPD and BPS have some form of documentation in place that explains the role of SROs, but it has not been updated anytime recently. He said that he knew about the bill, but hadn’t read any details. Rohlfs said the district is in support, and will most likely discuss the bill at the next administrative meeting.

“It just highlights the importance of just making sure we’re working together and making sure that parents are a part of that conversation,” Rohlfs said.