Published Online: March 19, 1997

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Sale of Boys Town School Prompts Call To Alter Law

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The impending closure of a Nebraska high school run by Boys Town has prompted a second look at a new state mandate on alternative education.

The new law, which takes effect in July, requires Nebraska school districts to provide alternative programs for expelled students.

Boys Town officials said that they were forced to sell Father Flanagan High School in inner-city Omaha in anticipation of a lessening demand for their services because of the new law.

The private school for troubled youths will shut its doors in June after 14 years. It will be sold to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Omaha Inc. for $3.5 million.

"This legislation renders our educational efforts at Flanagan High surplus," Boys Town officials said.

The sale does not involve the main Boys Town campus, located 20 miles from Omaha.

Following the decision to sell Father Flanagan High--named for Boys Town's legendary founder--a Nebraska state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make the alternative education provision optional.

The Boys and Girls Clubs plans to use the building for administrative offices and various programs.

Out-of-State Growth

A 1994 federal law requires states--if they want federal education funding--to adopt their own laws compelling districts to expel students who have brought weapons to school.

Nebraska lawmakers went further. The state in 1995 passed a measure that forces public school districts to provide alternative education programs for students who have been expelled or suspended.

Under the Nebraska law, public schools will no longer have a need to send students with discipline problems to private alternative schools, said Perre Neiland, an aide to state Sen. Curt Broom. Mr. Broom is sponsoring the legislation that would allow districts to choose whether they want to provide alternative programs.

Only about 40 students out of some 287,000 were expelled from Nebraska's public schools last year, according to Mr. Neiland.

Meanwhile, the 200 students who attend Father Flanagan High School will be placed with the Omaha public school system or at Boys Town's 1,300-acre main campus, said Randy Blauvelt, a spokesman for Boys Town. "By no means is Boys Town closing," he said. "In fact, we continue to grow."

But the growth for the world-renowned institution that has been around since 1917 is chiefly outside the state. ("Father Flanagan's Gospel," June 5, 1996.)

In addition to the satellite campuses it runs in at least 14 states and the District of Columbia, Boys Town recently expanded its education model into 10 schools in the Chicago public school system.

The program is designed to improve academic achievement by helping students and teachers deal with behavioral problems that can disrupt the classroom.

Although Mr. Broom's bill has the potential to change circumstances for Father Flanagan High, Boys Town officials have no intention of changing course. "The die is cast at this point," Mr. Blauvelt said of the closing. "It really is the responsibility of the district to provide alternatives."

The bill, which was introduced this month, is in the Senate education committee.

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