2003 Regular Session

To: Education

By: Representative Scott (80th)

House Bill 1297



     SECTION 1.  Section 37-7-301, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     37-7-301.  The school boards of all school districts shall have the following powers, authority and duties in addition to all others imposed or granted by law, to wit:

          (a)  To organize and operate the schools of the district and to make such division between the high school grades and elementary grades as, in their judgment, will serve the best interests of the school;

          (b)  To introduce public school music, art, manual training and other special subjects into either the elementary or high school grades, as the board shall deem proper;

          (c)  To be the custodians of real and personal school property and to manage, control and care for same, both during the school term and during vacation;

          (d)  To have responsibility for the erection, repairing and equipping of school facilities and the making of necessary school improvements;

          (e)  To suspend or to expel a pupil or to change the placement of a pupil to the school district's alternative school or home-bound program for misconduct in the school or on school property, as defined in Section 37-11-29, on the road to and from school, or at any school-related activity or event, or for conduct occurring on property other than school property or other than at a school-related activity or event when such conduct by a pupil, in the determination of the school superintendent or principal, renders that pupil's presence in the classroom a disruption to the educational environment of the school or a detriment to the best interest and welfare of the pupils and teacher of such class as a whole, and to delegate such authority to the appropriate officials of the school district;

          (f)  To visit schools in the district, in their discretion, in a body for the purpose of determining what can be done for the improvement of the school in a general way;

          (g)  To support, within reasonable limits, the superintendent, principal and teachers where necessary for the proper discipline of the school;

          (h)  To exclude from the schools students with what appears to be infectious or contagious diseases; * * * however, such student may be allowed to return to school upon presenting a certificate from a public health officer, duly licensed physician or nurse practitioner that the student is free from such disease;

          (i)  To require those vaccinations specified by the State Health Officer as provided in Section 41-23-37;

          (j)  To see that all necessary utilities and services are provided in the schools at all times when same are needed;

          (k)  To authorize the use of the school buildings and grounds for the holding of public meetings and gatherings of the people under such regulations as may be prescribed by said board;

          (l)  To prescribe and enforce rules and regulations not inconsistent with law or with the regulations of the State Board of Education for their own government and for the government of the schools, and to transact their business at regular and special meetings called and held in the manner provided by law;

          (m)  To maintain and operate all of the schools under their control for such length of time during the year as may be required;

          (n)  To enforce in the schools the courses of study and the use of the textbooks prescribed by the proper authorities;

          (o)  To make orders directed to the superintendent of schools for the issuance of pay certificates for lawful purposes on any available funds of the district and to have full control of the receipt, distribution, allotment and disbursement of all funds provided for the support and operation of the schools of such school district whether such funds be derived from state appropriations, local ad valorem tax collections, or otherwise;

          (p)  To select all school district personnel in the manner provided by law, and to provide for such employee fringe benefit programs, including accident reimbursement plans, as may be deemed necessary and appropriate by the board;

          (q)  To provide athletic programs and other school activities and to regulate the establishment and operation of such programs and activities;

          (r)  To join, in their discretion, any association of school boards and other public school-related organizations, and to pay from local funds other than minimum foundation funds, any membership dues;

          (s)  To expend local school activity funds, or other available school district funds, other than minimum education program funds, for the purposes prescribed under this paragraph. "Activity funds" shall mean all funds received by school officials in all school districts paid or collected to participate in any school activity, such activity being part of the school program and partially financed with public funds or supplemented by public funds.  The term "activity funds" shall not include any funds raised and/or expended by any organization unless commingled in a bank account with existing activity funds, regardless of whether the funds were raised by school employees or received by school employees during school hours or using school facilities, and regardless of whether a school employee exercises influence over the expenditure or disposition of such funds.  Organizations shall not be required to make any payment to any school for the use of any school facility if, in the discretion of the local school governing board, the organization's function shall be deemed to be beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the school.  For the purposes of this provision, the term "organization" shall not include any organization subject to the control of the local school governing board.  Activity funds may only be expended for any necessary expenses or travel costs, including advances, incurred by students and their chaperons in attending any in-state or out-of-state school-related programs, conventions or seminars and/or any commodities, equipment, travel expenses, purchased services or school supplies which the local school governing board, in its discretion, shall deem beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the district, including items which may subsequently become the personal property of individuals, including yearbooks, athletic apparel, book covers and trophies.  Activity funds may be used to pay travel expenses of school district personnel.  The local school governing board shall be authorized and empowered to promulgate rules and regulations specifically designating for what purposes school activity funds may be expended.  The local school governing board shall provide (i) that such school activity funds shall be maintained and expended by the principal of the school generating the funds in individual bank accounts, or (ii) that such school activity funds shall be maintained and expended by the superintendent of schools in a central depository approved by the board.  The local school governing board shall provide that such school activity funds be audited as part of the annual audit required in Section 37-9-18.  The State Auditor shall prescribe a uniform system of accounting and financial reporting for all school activity fund transactions;

          (t)  To contract, on a shared savings, lease or lease-purchase basis, for energy efficiency services and/or equipment as provided for in Section 31-7-14, not to exceed ten (10) years;

          (u)  To maintain accounts and issue pay certificates on school food service bank accounts;

          (v)  (i)  To lease a school building from an individual, partnership, nonprofit corporation or a private for-profit corporation for the use of such school district, and to expend funds therefor as may be available from any nonminimum program sources.  The school board of the school district desiring to lease a school building shall declare by resolution that a need exists for a school building and that the school district cannot provide the necessary funds to pay the cost or its proportionate share of the cost of a school building required to meet the present needs.  The resolution so adopted by the school board shall be published once each week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper having a general circulation in the school district involved, with the first publication thereof to be made not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date upon which the school board is to act on the question of leasing a school building.  If no petition requesting an election is filed prior to such meeting as hereinafter provided, then the school board may, by resolution spread upon its minutes, proceed to lease a school building.  If at any time prior to said meeting a petition signed by not less than twenty percent (20%) or fifteen hundred (1500), whichever is less, of the qualified electors of the school district involved shall be filed with the school board requesting that an election be called on the question, then the school board shall, not later than the next regular meeting, adopt a resolution calling an election to be held within such school district upon the question of authorizing the school board to lease a school building.  Such election shall be called and held, and notice thereof shall be given, in the same manner for elections upon the questions of the issuance of the bonds of school districts, and the results thereof shall be certified to the school board.  If at least three-fifths (3/5) of the qualified electors of the school district who voted in such election shall vote in favor of the leasing of a school building, then the school board shall proceed to lease a school building.  The term of the lease contract shall not exceed twenty (20) years, and the total cost of such lease shall be either the amount of the lowest and best bid accepted by the school board after advertisement for bids or an amount not to exceed the current fair market value of the lease as determined by the averaging of at least two (2) appraisals by certified general appraisers licensed by the State of Mississippi.  The term "school building" as used in this item (v) shall be construed to mean any building or buildings used for classroom purposes in connection with the operation of schools and shall include the site therefor, necessary support facilities, and the equipment thereof and appurtenances thereto such as heating facilities, water supply, sewage disposal, landscaping, walks, drives and playgrounds.  The term "lease" as used in this item (v)(i) may include a lease/purchase contract;

              (ii)  If two (2) or more school districts propose to enter into a lease contract jointly, then joint meetings of the school boards having control may be held but no action taken shall be binding on any such school district unless the question of leasing a school building is approved in each participating school district under the procedure hereinabove set forth in item (v)(i). All of the provisions of item (v)(i) regarding the term and amount of the lease contract shall apply to the school boards of school districts acting jointly.  Any lease contract executed by two (2) or more school districts as joint lessees shall set out the amount of the aggregate lease rental to be paid by each, which may be agreed upon, but there shall be no right of occupancy by any lessee unless the aggregate rental is paid as stipulated in the lease contract.  All rights of joint lessees under the lease contract shall be in proportion to the amount of lease rental paid by each;

          (w)  To employ all noninstructional and noncertificated employees and fix the duties and compensation of such personnel deemed necessary pursuant to the recommendation of the superintendent of schools;

          (x)  To employ and fix the duties and compensation of such legal counsel as deemed necessary;

          (y)  Subject to rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, to purchase, own and operate trucks, vans and other motor vehicles, which shall bear the proper identification required by law;

          (z)  To expend funds for the payment of substitute teachers and to adopt reasonable regulations for the employment and compensation of such substitute teachers;

          (aa)  To acquire in its own name by purchase all real property which shall be necessary and desirable in connection with the construction, renovation or improvement of any public school building or structure.  Whenever the purchase price for such real property is greater than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00), the school board shall not purchase the property for an amount exceeding the fair market value of such property as determined by the average of at least two (2) independent appraisals by certified general appraisers licensed by the State of Mississippi. If the board shall be unable to agree with the owner of any such real property in connection with any such project, the board shall have the power and authority to acquire any such real property by condemnation proceedings pursuant to Section 11-27-1 et seq., and for such purpose, the right of eminent domain is * * * conferred upon and vested in the board. * * *  The local school board is authorized to grant an easement for ingress and egress over sixteenth section land or lieu land in exchange for a similar easement upon adjoining land where the exchange of easements affords substantial benefit to the sixteenth section land; * * * however, the exchange must be based upon values as determined by a competent appraiser, with any differential in value to be adjusted by cash payment.  Any easement rights granted over sixteenth section land under such authority shall terminate when the easement ceases to be used for its stated purpose.  No sixteenth section or lieu land which is subject to an existing lease shall be burdened by any such easement except by consent of the lessee or unless the school district shall acquire the unexpired leasehold interest affected by the easement;

          (bb)  To charge reasonable fees related to the educational programs of the district, in the manner prescribed in Section 37-7-335;

          (cc)  Subject to rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, to purchase relocatable classrooms for the use of such school district, in the manner prescribed in Section 37-1-13;

          (dd)  To enter into contracts or agreements with other school districts, political subdivisions or governmental entities to carry out one or more of the powers or duties of the school board, or to allow more efficient utilization of limited resources for providing services to the public;

          (ee)  To provide for in-service training for employees of the district * * *;

          (ff) * * *  To prescribe the use of textbooks, and in the discretion of the school board, to provide that parents and legal guardians shall be responsible for the textbooks and for the compensation to the school district for any books which are not returned to the proper schools upon the withdrawal of their dependent child.  If a textbook is lost or not returned by any student who drops out of the public school district, the parent or legal guardian shall also compensate the school district for the fair market value of the textbooks;

          (gg)  To conduct fund-raising activities on behalf of the school district that the local school board, in its discretion, deems appropriate or beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the district; provided that:

              (i)  Any proceeds of the fund-raising activities shall be treated as "activity funds" and shall be accounted for as are other activity funds under this section; and

              (ii)  Fund-raising activities conducted or authorized by the board for the sale of school pictures, the rental of caps and gowns or the sale of graduation invitations for which the school board receives a commission, rebate or fee shall contain a disclosure statement advising that a portion of the proceeds of the sales or rentals shall be contributed to the student activity fund;

          (hh)  To allow individual lessons for music, art and other curriculum-related activities for academic credit or nonacademic credit during school hours and using school equipment and facilities, subject to uniform rules and regulations adopted by the school board;

          (ii)  To charge reasonable fees for participating in an extracurricular activity for academic or nonacademic credit for necessary and required equipment such as safety equipment, band instruments and uniforms;

          (jj)  To conduct or participate in any fund-raising activities on behalf of or in connection with a tax-exempt charitable organization;

          (kk)  To exercise such powers as may be reasonably necessary to carry out the provisions of this section; * * *

          (ll)  To expend funds for the services of nonprofit arts organizations or other such nonprofit organizations who provide performances or other services for the students of the school district; and

          (mm)  The State Board of Education shall select districts for the pilot program having a high incidence of juvenile crime, sixty percent (60%) food stamp participation and a Level 3 or lower accreditation rating.

     SECTION 2.  Section 37-7-335, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     37-7-335.  (1)  The school board of each school district may charge reasonable fees, but not more than the actual cost, for the following:

          (a)  Supplemental instructional materials and supplies, excluding textbooks;

          (b)  Any other fees designated by the local school board as fees related to a valid curriculum educational objective, including school uniforms in those districts selected for participation in a pilot program under Section 37-7-301 and transportation; and

          (c)  Extracurricular activities and any other educational activities of the school district which are not designated by the local school board as valid curriculum educational objectives, such as band trips and athletic events.

     (2)  (a)  All fees authorized to be charged under this section, except those fees authorized under subsection (1)(c) of this section, shall be charged only upon the condition that the school board of each school district shall adopt a financial hardship waiver policy that shall be kept in the strictest of confidence with all files and personal disclosures restricted from review by the general public.  The board shall insure that a pupil eligible to have any such fees waived as a result of an inability to pay for said fees, shall not be discriminated against nor shall there be any overt identification of any pupil who has received a financial hardship waiver by use of special tokens or tickets, announcements, posting or publication of names, physical separation, choice of materials or by any other means.  In no case shall any school district's procedures expose any pupil receiving a hardship waiver to any type of stigma or ridicule by other pupils or school district personnel.

          (b)  The confidentiality of the financial hardship waiver policy adopted by such school board shall apply to any students who have an inability to pay any fees authorized under subsection (1)(c) of this section.

     (3)  In no case shall the inability to pay the assessment of fees authorized under * * * this section result in a pupil being denied or deprived of any academic awards or standards, any class selection, grade, diploma, transcript or the right to participate in any activity related to educational enhancement.

     SECTION 3.  Section 37-11-55, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     37-11-55.  The local school board shall adopt and make available to all teachers, school personnel, students and parents or guardians, at the beginning of each school year, a code of student conduct developed in consultation with teachers, school personnel, students and parents or guardians.  The code shall be based on the rules governing student conduct and discipline adopted by the school board and shall be made available at the school level in the student handbook or similar publication.  The code shall include, but not be limited to:

          (a)  Specific grounds for disciplinary action under the school district's discipline plan;

          (b)  Procedures to be followed for acts requiring discipline, including suspensions and expulsion, which comply with due process requirements;

          (c)  An explanation of the responsibilities and rights of students with regard to:  attendance; proper attire in conformity with the school uniform in those districts selected for participation in a pilot program under Section 37-7-301; respect for persons and property; knowledge and observation of rules of conduct; free speech and student publications; assembly; privacy; and participation in school programs and activities;

          (d)  Policies and procedures recognizing the teacher as the authority in classroom matters, and supporting that teacher in any decision in compliance with the written discipline code of conduct.  Such recognition shall include the right of the teacher to remove from the classroom any student who, in the professional judgment of the teacher, is disrupting the learning environment, to the office of the principal or assistant principal.  The principal or assistant principal shall determine the proper placement for the student, who may not be returned to the classroom until a conference of some kind has been held with the parent, guardian or custodian during which the disrupting behavior is discussed and agreements are reached that no further disruption will be tolerated.  If the principal does not approve of the determination of the teacher to remove the student from the classroom, the student may not be removed from the classroom, and the principal, upon request from the teacher, must provide justification for his disapproval.  This paragraph (d) shall be repealed on July 1, 2004;

          (e)  Policies and procedures for dealing with a student who causes a disruption in the classroom, on school property or vehicles, or at school-related activities;

          (f)  Procedures for the development of behavior modification plans by the school principal, reporting teacher and student's parent for a student who causes a disruption in the classroom, on school property or vehicles, or at school-related activities for a second time during the school year; and

          (g)  Policies and procedures specifically concerning gang-related activities in the school, on school property or vehicles, or at school-related activities.

     SECTION 4.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2003.