2002 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representative Warren, Lott
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 37-13-89, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO OBTAIN FINGERPRINTS AND CRIMINAL RECORDS BACKGROUND CHECKS ON APPLICANTS FOR THE POSITION OF SCHOOL ATTENDANCE OFFICER, TO PROHIBIT THE EMPLOYMENT OF PERSONS DETERMINED THROUGH THE FINGERPRINTING OR BACKGROUND CHECKS TO BE GUILTY OF CERTAIN FELONIES, TO AUTHORIZE WAIVERS FOR MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES AND TO PROVIDE IMMUNITY TO MEMBERS OF THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND EMPLOYEES OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REGARDING EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS BASED UPON THE FINGERPRINTING AND BACKGROUND CHECKS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 37-13-89, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-13-89. (1) In each school district within the state, there shall be employed the number of school attendance officers determined by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement to be necessary to adequately enforce the provisions of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law; however, this number shall not exceed one hundred fifty-three (153) school attendance officers at any time. From and after July 1, 1998, all school attendance officers employed pursuant to this section shall be employees of the State Department of Education. The State Department of Education shall employ all persons employed as school attendance officers by district attorneys before July 1, 1998, and shall assign them to school attendance responsibilities in the school district in which they were employed before July 1, 1998. The first twelve (12) months of employment for each school attendance officer shall be the probationary period of state service.
(2) (a) The State Department of Education shall obtain current criminal records background checks and current child abuse registry checks on all persons applying for the position of school attendance officer after July 2, 2002. The criminal records information and registry checks must be kept on file for any new hires. In order to determine an applicant's suitability for employment as a school attendance officer, the applicant must be fingerprinted. If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the Department of Public Safety shall forward the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a national criminal history record check. The applicant shall pay the fee, not to exceed Fifty Dollars ($50.00), for the fingerprinting and criminal records background check; however, the State Department of Education, in its discretion, may pay the fee for the fingerprinting and criminal records background check on behalf of any applicant. Under no circumstances may a member of the State Board of Education, employee of the State Department of Education or any person other than the subject of the criminal records background check disseminate information received through any such checks except insofar as required to fulfill the purposes of this subsection.
(b) If the fingerprinting or criminal records check discloses a felony conviction, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere to a felony of possession or sale of drugs, murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, sexual battery, sex offense listed in Section 45-33-23(g), child abuse, arson, grand larceny, burglary, gratification of lust or aggravated assault which has not been reversed on appeal or for which a pardon has not been granted, the applicant is not eligible to be employed as a school attendance officer. Any employment of an applicant pending the results of the fingerprinting and criminal records check is voidable if the new hire receives a disqualifying criminal records check. However, the State Board of Education, in its discretion, may allow an applicant aggrieved by an employment decision under this subsection to appear before the board, or before a hearing officer designated for that purpose, to show mitigating circumstances that may exist and allow the new hire to be employed as a school attendance officer. The State Board of Education may grant waivers for mitigating circumstances, which may include, but are not necessarily limited to: (i) age at which the crime was committed; (ii) circumstances surrounding the crime; (iii) length of time since the conviction and criminal history since the conviction; (iv) work history; (v) current employment and character references; and (vi) other evidence demonstrating the ability of the person to perform the responsibilities of a school attendance officer competently and that the person does not pose a threat to the health or safety of children.
(c) A member of the State Board of Education or employee of the State Department of Education may not be held liable in any employment discrimination suit in which an allegation of discrimination is made regarding an employment decision authorized under this section.
(3) Each school attendance officer shall possess a college degree with a major in a behavioral science or a related field or shall have no less than three (3) years combined actual experience as a school teacher, school administrator, law enforcement officer possessing such degree, and/or social worker; however, these requirements shall not apply to persons employed as school attendance officers before January 1, 1987. School attendance officers also shall satisfy any additional requirements that may be established by the State Personnel Board for the position of school attendance officer.
(4) It shall be the duty of each school attendance officer to:
(a) Cooperate with any public agency to locate and identify all compulsory-school-age children who are not attending school;
(b) Cooperate with all courts of competent jurisdiction;
(c) Investigate all cases of nonattendance and unlawful absences by compulsory-school-age children not enrolled in a nonpublic school;
(d) Provide appropriate counseling to encourage all school-age children to attend school until they have completed high school;
(e) Attempt to secure the provision of social or welfare services that may be required to enable any child to attend school;
(f) Contact the home or place of residence of a compulsory-school-age child and any other place in which the officer is likely to find any compulsory-school-age child when the child is absent from school during school hours without a valid written excuse from school officials, and when the child is found, the officer shall notify the parents and school officials as to where the child was physically located;
(g) Contact promptly the home of each compulsory-school-age child in the school district within the officer's jurisdiction who is not enrolled in school or is not in attendance at public school and is without a valid written excuse from school officials; if no valid reason is found for the nonenrollment or absence from the school, the school attendance officer shall give written notice to the parent, guardian or custodian of the requirement for the child's enrollment or attendance;
(h) Collect and maintain information concerning absenteeism, dropouts and other attendance-related problems, as may be required by law or the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement; and
(i) Perform all other duties relating to compulsory school attendance established by the State Department of Education or district school attendance supervisor, or both.
(5) While engaged in the performance of his duties, each school attendance officer shall carry on his person a badge identifying him as a school attendance officer under the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement of the State Department of Education and an identification card designed by the State Superintendent of Public Education and issued by the school attendance officer supervisor. Neither the badge nor the identification card shall bear the name of any elected public official.
(6) The State Personnel Board shall develop a salary scale for school attendance officers as part of the variable compensation plan. The various pay ranges of the salary scale shall be based upon factors including, but not limited to, education, professional certification and licensure, and number of years of experience. * * * School attendance officers shall be paid in accordance with this salary scale. * * * The minimum salaries under the scale shall be no less than the following:
(a) For school attendance officers holding a bachelor's degree or any other attendance officer who does not hold such a degree, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $19,650.00
5 - 8 years 21,550.00
9 - 12 years 23,070.00
13 - 16 years 24,590.00
Over 17 years 26,110.00
(b) For school attendance officers holding a license as a social worker, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $20,650.00
5 - 8 years 22,950.00
9 - 12 years 24,790.00
13 - 16 years 26,630.00
17 - 20 years 28,470.00
Over 21 years 30,310.00
(c) For school attendance officers holding a master's degree in a behavioral science or a related field, the annual salary shall be based on years of experience as a school attendance officer or related field of service or employment, no less than as follows:
Years of Experience Salary
0 - 4 years $21,450.00
5 - 8 years 24,000.00
9 - 12 years 26,040.00
13 - 16 years 28,080.00
17 - 20 years 30,120.00
Over 21 years 32,160.00
(7) (a) Each school attendance officer employed by a district attorney on June 30, 1998, who became an employee of the State Department of Education on July 1, 1998, shall be awarded credit for personal leave and major medical leave for his continuous service as a school attendance officer under the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. The credit for personal leave shall be in an amount equal to one-third (1/3) of the maximum personal leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Section 25-3-93 during his employment with the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. The credit for major medical leave shall be in an amount equal to one-half (1/2) of the maximum major medical leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Section 25-3-95 during his employment with the district attorney, and if applicable, the youth or family court or a state agency. However, if a district attorney who employed a school attendance officer on June 30, 1998, certifies, in writing, to the State Department of Education that the school attendance officer had accumulated, pursuant to a personal leave policy or major medical leave policy lawfully adopted by the district attorney, a number of days of unused personal leave or major medical leave, or both, which is greater than the number of days to which the school attendance officer is entitled under this paragraph, the State Department of Education shall authorize the school attendance officer to retain the actual unused personal leave or major medical leave, or both, certified by the district attorney, subject to the maximum amount of personal leave and major medical leave the school attendance officer could have accumulated had he been credited with such leave under Sections 25-3-93 and 25-3-95.
(b) For the purpose of determining the accrual rate for personal leave under Section 25-3-93 and major medical leave under Section 25-3-95, the State Department of Education shall give consideration to all continuous service rendered by a school attendance officer before July 1, 1998, in addition to the service rendered by the school attendance officer as an employee of the department.
(c) In order for a school attendance officer to be awarded credit for personal leave and major medical leave or to retain the actual unused personal leave and major medical leave accumulated by him before July 1, 1998, the district attorney who employed the school attendance officer must certify, in writing, to the State Department of Education the hire date of the school attendance officer. For each school attendance officer employed by the youth or family court or a state agency before being designated an employee of the district attorney who has not had a break in continuous service, the hire date shall be the date that the school attendance officer was hired by the youth or family court or state agency. The department shall prescribe the date by which the certification must be received by the department and shall provide written notice to all district attorneys of the certification requirement and the date by which the certification must be received.
(8) (a) School attendance officers shall maintain regular office hours on a year-round basis; however, during the school term, on those days that teachers in all of the school districts served by a school attendance officer are not required to report to work, the school attendance officer also shall not be required to report to work. (For purposes of this subsection, a school district's school term is that period of time identified as the school term in contracts entered into by the district with licensed personnel.) A school attendance officer shall be required to report to work on any day recognized as an official state holiday if teachers in any school district served by that school attendance officer are required to report to work on that day, regardless of the school attendance officer's status as an employee of the State Department of Education, and compensatory leave may not be awarded to the school attendance officer for working during that day. However, a school attendance officer may be allowed by the school attendance officer's supervisor to use earned leave on such days.
(b) The State Department of Education annually shall designate a period of two (2) consecutive weeks in the summer between school years during which school attendance officers shall not be required to report to work. A school attendance officer who elects to work at any time during that period may not be awarded compensatory leave for such work and may not opt to be absent from work at any time other than during the two (2) weeks designated by the department unless the school attendance officer uses personal leave or major medical leave accrued under Section 25-3-93 or 25-3-95 for such absence.
(9) The State Department of Education shall provide all continuing education and training courses that school attendance officers are required to complete under state law or rules and regulations of the department.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 2, 2002.