Omaha school board members voiced support Monday for strengthening the district's child abuse reporting policy.
At least three members attending a special meeting appeared to back an informal recommendation from Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle that OPS require employees to report suspected sexual harassment to law enforcement officials immediately, rather than within 24 hours, as board policy currently states.
“Keep it simple,” Kleine said. “Just report it immediately.”
Board President Marian Fey called the special meeting to talk about the district's harassment policy, which includes when staff should report a student complaint of sexual harassment. Six board members had asked her to do so, she said.
Kleine and Beadle explained that Nebraska state law does not specify a time period in which people have to report such abuse; it says only “shall report.”
OPS board policy, approved last year, states that employees should report allegations of sexual harassment within 24 hours of hearing it.
Board member Jennifer Tompkins Kirshenbaum said the 24-hour clause in the OPS policy bothered her. Board members Nancy Kratky and Justin Wayne said OPS employees should report suspected abuse immediately.
“There's no reason to wait once you're aware of the situation,” Kleine said.
The board took no action Monday on the policy.
In an interview, Kleine also provided an update on a recent OPS sexual assault case. In February, three 8-year-old boys were arrested after they allegedly tried to sexually assault a female classmate on the playground at Belvedere Elementary School, 3775 Curtis Ave.
The three boys are enrolled in the juvenile assessment system, Kleine said, where they will undergo evaluations and get behavioral help.
Police said the boys pinned down the girl, removed her coat and unbuttoned her shirt.
Two of the boys sat on the girl's arms, and the third sat on her stomach as he unbuttoned her shirt, the attorney retained by the girl's family has said.
Prosecutors chose the assessment route to get the boys help immediately rather than have their cases possibly languish in the juvenile court system for months, Kleine said.
Something must be going on with the boys, he said, speculating that they must have seen that behavior exhibited somewhere.
“That's not something 8-year-olds are doing,” he said.
The girl has since been transferred to another school.
The boys' school placement is unclear. OPS spokesman David Patton said he could not comment on specific disciplinary cases.
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