1998 Regular Session

To: Education; Finance

By: Senator(s) Ferris

Senate Bill 2202



SECTION 1. Section 37-13-92, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

37-13-92. (1) Beginning with the school year 1993-1994, the school boards of all school districts shall establish, maintain and operate, in connection with the regular programs of the school district, an alternative school program for, but not limited to, the following categories of compulsory-school-age students:

(a) Any compulsory-school-age child who has been suspended for more than ten (10) days or expelled from school, except for any student expelled for possession of a weapon or other felonious conduct;

(b) Any compulsory-school-age child referred to such alternative school based upon a documented need for placement in the alternative school program by the parent, legal guardian or custodian of such child due to disciplinary problems; and

(c) Any compulsory-school-age child referred to such alternative school program by the dispositive order of a chancellor or youth court judge, with the consent of the superintendent of the child's school district.

(2) The principal or program administrator of any such alternative school program shall require verification from the appropriate guidance counselor of any such child referred to the alternative school program regarding the suitability of such child for attendance at the alternative school program. Before a student may be removed to an alternative school education program, the superintendent of the student's school district must determine that the written and distributed disciplinary policy of the local district is being followed. The policy shall include standards for:

(a) The removal of a student to an alternative education program that will include a process of educational review to develop the student's individual instruction plan and the evaluation at regular intervals of the student's educational progress; the process shall include classroom teachers and/or other appropriate professional personnel, as defined in the district policy, to ensure a continuing educational program for the removed student;

(b) The duration of alternative placement; and

(c) The notification of parents or guardians, and their appropriate inclusion in the removal and evaluation process, as defined in the district policy. Nothing in this paragraph should be defined in a manner to circumvent the principal's or the superintendent's authority to remove a student to alternative education.

(3) The local school board or the superintendent shall provide for the continuing education of a student who has been removed to an alternative school program.

(4) A school district, in its discretion, may provide a program of general educational development (GED) preparatory instruction in the alternative school program. However, any GED preparation program offered in an alternative school program must be administered in compliance with the rules and regulations established for such programs under Sections 37-35-1 through 37-35-11 and by the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges. The school district may administer the General Educational Development (GED) Testing Program under the policies and guidelines of the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education in the alternative school program or may authorize the test to be administered through the community/junior college district in which the alternative school is situated.

(5) Any such alternative school program operated under the authority of this section shall meet all appropriate accreditation requirements of the State Department of Education.

(6) The alternative school program may be held within such school district or may be operated by two (2) or more adjacent school districts, pursuant to a contract approved by the State Board of Education. When two (2) or more school districts contract to operate an alternative school program, the school board of a district designated to be the lead district shall serve as the governing board of the alternative school program. Transportation for students attending the alternative school program shall be the responsibility of the local school district. The expense of establishing, maintaining and operating such alternative school program may be paid from funds contributed or otherwise made available to the school district for such purpose or from local district maintenance funds. The school boards of any school districts jointly operating a regional alternative school program are expressly authorized and empowered to recommend to the levying authorities of the municipalities or counties in which the school districts are located, an ad valorem tax levy for the establishment and support of such regional alternative school program. In no case shall such levy exceed one (1) mill. No levying authority shall levy a smaller tax millage for the general support of a regional alternative school program than was levied for the previous year unless requested to make such reduction by the school board(s) of the school district. When a county or municipality has a general reassessment of property to increase the ad valorem tax assessments, such levying authority may reduce the millage for support of such programs, provided that its aggregate budget for such purposes is not lower than was paid the previous year. The levy for support of a regional alternative school program for any year in any given school district is that presently prevailing therein unless a change is recommended to the levying authorities by the school board(s) or by a vote of the people ascertained in an election called for that purpose by the levying authorities subsequent to the petition therefor signed by twenty percent (20%) of the qualified electors of the appropriate school district.

(7) The State Board of Education shall promulgate minimum guidelines for alternative school programs. The guidelines shall require, at a minimum, the formulation of an individual instruction plan for each student referred to the alternative school program and, upon a determination that it is in a student's best interest for that student to receive general educational development (GED) preparatory instruction, that the local school board assign the student to a GED preparatory program established under subsection (4) of this section. The minimum guidelines for alternative school programs shall also require the following components:

(a) Clear guidelines and procedures for placement of students into alternative education programs which at a minimum shall prescribe due process procedures for disciplinary and general educational development (GED) placement;

(b) Clear and consistent goals for students and parents;

(c) Curricula addressing cultural and learning style differences;

(d) Direct supervision of all activities on a closed campus;

(e) Full-day attendance with a rigorous workload and minimal time off;

(f) Selection of program from options provided by the local school district, Division of Youth Services or the youth court, including transfer to a community-based alternative school;

(g) Continual monitoring and evaluation and formalized passage from one step or program to another;

(h) A motivated and culturally diverse staff;

(i) Counseling for parents and students;

(j) Administrative and community support for the program; and

(k) Clear procedures for annual alternative school program review and evaluation.

(8) On request of a school district, the State Department of Education shall provide the district informational material on developing an alternative school program that takes into consideration size, wealth and existing facilities in determining a program best suited to a district.

(9) Any compulsory-school-age child who becomes involved in any criminal or violent behavior shall be removed from such alternative school program and, if probable cause exists, a case shall be referred to the youth court.

  (10) The State Board of Education, in its discretion, may exempt not more than four (4) school district alternative school programs in the state from any compulsory standard of accreditation for a period of three (3) years. During this period, the State Department of Education shall conduct a study of all alternative school programs in the state, and on or before January 1, 2000, shall develop and promulgate accreditation standards for all alternative school programs, including any recommendations for necessary legislation relating to such alternative school programs.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1998.