2012 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Representative Scott
AN ACT TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT PREVENTION ACT OF 2012; TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO WORK WITH SCHOOL DISTRICTS THAT HAVE THE LOWEST HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATES; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT TO DEVELOP METHODS OF TARGETED INTERVENTION FOR LOW PERFORMING SCHOOL DISTRICTS; TO PROVIDE THAT CHILDREN OF A CERTAIN AGE MAY NOT WITHDRAW FROM SCHOOL UNLESS CERTAIN CONDITIONS ARE MET; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 37-13-80, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH CREATES THE OFFICE OF DROPOUT PREVENTION WITHIN THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, FOR THE PURPOSE OF POSSIBLE AMENDMENT; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 37-13-91, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH IS THE MISSISSIPPI COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE LAW, FOR PURPOSE OF POSSIBLE AMENDMENT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi High School Dropout Prevention Act of 2012."
SECTION 2. (1) The State Department of Education shall identify and work with those school districts having the lowest high school graduation rates. The department shall: incorporate into its support and intervention specific dropout prevention strategies; target resources; and gather data that includes graduation rates and educational outcomes in all public schools.
(2) The department shall develop specific methods of targeted intervention or identify appropriate existing methods for low performing school districts. These intervention methods may include the following:
(a) Early intervention for students who fail Algebra I or any Grade 9 math class and have insufficient credits to be promoted;
(b) Alternative programs designed to reengage dropouts, including dual enrollment courses at the community college level;
(c) Increased availability of advanced placement courses;
(d) Offering full course fee waivers for students eligible for free and reduced lunches, when enrolled in dual credit courses;
(e) Flexible programs for older students who currently are not enrolled;
(f) Comprehensive supplemental education programs for middle school students who are below grade level in reading and math;
(g) Teacher advisories and other supports that are designed to specifically address the needs of youth most at risk of dropping out of school;
(h) Strategies that are designed specifically to improve the high school graduation rate of teens at highest risk for dropping out, including youth in the foster care system, pregnant and parenting youth, English as a second language learners, and teens with special education needs; and
(i) Communicating with parents and students about the availability of local afterschool programs and the academic enrichment and other activities the programs offer.
(3) The department also shall gather the following data to ensure that all programs are research-based and data-driven and use such data for continuous program improvement:
(a) Total number of high school suspensions related to truancy;
(b) Total number of students enrolled in alternative programs;
(c) Total number of students who have been reenrolled in programs with flexible schedules or community college programs;
(d) Total number of freshmen who have individualized educational programs (IEPs);
(e) Total number of students who have failed Algebra I or Grade 9 math;
(f) Total number of students who are repeating Grade 9;
(g) Total number of students receiving remedial programming in Grade 9; and
(h) The percentage of children in the care of the Department of Human Services who do not graduate from high school.
(4) In school districts involved in support intervention, the department shall prepare and submit each year a written report that documents the following:
(a) The outcomes of the dropout prevention strategies to date, at the school district level; and
(b) How the school district dropout prevention strategies and activities will be modified, based on the data.
SECTION 3. (1) A student who has completed sixteen (16) years of age but has not attained eighteen (18) years of age may not withdraw from school before graduation unless:
(a) The student, the student's parent or guardian and an administrator agree to the withdrawal;
(b) At the exit interview, the student and the student's parent or guardian provide written acknowledgement of the withdrawal that meets the requirements of paragraph (d) of this subsection;
(c) The school principal provides written consent for the student to withdraw from school; and
(d) The withdrawal is:
(i) Due to documented financial hardship and the need of the individual to be employed to support the individual's family or a dependent;
(ii) Due to documented illness;
(iii) By order of a court that has jurisdiction over the student; and
(iv) Accompanied by a written acknowledgement of a withdrawal under paragraph (b) of this subsection which must include a statement that the student and the student's parent or guardian understand that withdrawal from school is likely to reduce the student's future earnings and increase the student's likelihood of being unemployed in the future.
(2) If a child of the age described in subsection (1) is habitually absent from school and the school is unable to contact the parent or guardian, the school may withdraw the child from enrollment if its attempts to contact the parent or guardian by telephone, regular and registered mail and home visit are documented. If a child who has been withdrawn from enrollment under this subsection returns to school, or if the school mistakenly withdraws the child from enrollment, the child must be reenrolled promptly.
SECTION 4. Section 37-13-80, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
37-13-80. (1) There is created the Office of Dropout Prevention within the State Department of Education. The office shall be responsible for the administration of a statewide dropout prevention program and the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement.
(2) The State Superintendent of Public Education shall appoint a director for the Office of Dropout Prevention, who shall meet all qualifications established by the State Superintendent of Public Education and the State Personnel Board. The director shall be responsible for the proper administration of the Office of Dropout Prevention and any other regulations or policies that may be adopted by the State Board of Education.
(3) Each school district shall implement a dropout prevention program approved by the Office of Dropout Prevention of the State Department of Education by the 2008-2009 school year.
(4) (a) School attendance officers, working with school district officials, shall gather accurate data on youth in juvenile detention centers to properly track students.
(b) The Office of Dropout Prevention in the Department of Education shall establish the procedure for the tracking of students who enter and leave detention centers on a statewide basis.
(5) Each school district's dropout prevention plan shall address how students will transition to the home school district.
(6) It is the intent of the Legislature that, through the statewide dropout prevention program and the dropout prevention programs implemented by each school district, the graduation rate for cohort classes will be increased to not less than eighty-five percent (85%) by the 2018-2019 school year. The Office of Dropout Prevention shall establish graduation rate benchmarks for each two-year period from the 2008-2009 school year through the 2018-2019 school year, which shall serve as guidelines for increasing the graduation rate for cohort classes on a systematic basis to eighty-five percent (85%) by the 2018-2019 school year.
SECTION 5. Section 37-13-91, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
37-13-91. (1) This section shall be referred to as the "Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law."
(2) The following terms as used in this section are defined as follows:
(a) "Parent" means the father or mother to whom a child has been born, or the father or mother by whom a child has been legally adopted.
(b) "Guardian" means a guardian of the person of a child, other than a parent, who is legally appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(c) "Custodian" means any person having the present care or custody of a child, other than a parent or guardian of the child.
(d) "School day" means not less than five (5) and not more than eight (8) hours of actual teaching in which both teachers and pupils are in regular attendance for scheduled schoolwork.
(e) "School" means any public school in this state or any nonpublic school in this state which is in session each school year for at least one hundred eighty (180) school days, except that the "nonpublic" school term shall be the number of days that each school shall require for promotion from grade to grade.
(f) "Compulsory-school-age child" means a child who has attained or will attain the age of six (6) years on or before September 1 of the calendar year and who has not attained the age of seventeen (17) years on or before September 1 of the calendar year; and shall include any child who has attained or will attain the age of five (5) years on or before September 1 and has enrolled in a full-day public school kindergarten program. Provided, however, that the parent or guardian of any child enrolled in a full-day public school kindergarten program shall be allowed to disenroll the child from the program on a one-time basis, and such child shall not be deemed a compulsory-school-age child until the child attains the age of six (6) years.
(g) "School attendance officer" means a person employed by the State Department of Education pursuant to Section 37-13-89.
(h) "Appropriate school official" means the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, or, in the case of a nonpublic school, the principal or the headmaster.
(i) "Nonpublic school" means an institution for the teaching of children, consisting of a physical plant, whether owned or leased, including a home, instructional staff members and students, and which is in session each school year. This definition shall include, but not be limited to, private, church, parochial and home instruction programs.
(3) A parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child in this state shall cause the child to enroll in and attend a public school or legitimate nonpublic school for the period of time that the child is of compulsory school age, except under the following circumstances:
(a) When a compulsory-school-age child is physically, mentally or emotionally incapable of attending school as determined by the appropriate school official based upon sufficient medical documentation.
(b) When a compulsory-school-age child is enrolled in and pursuing a course of special education, remedial education or education for handicapped or physically or mentally disadvantaged children.
(c) When a compulsory-school-age child is being educated in a legitimate home instruction program.
The parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child described in this subsection, or the parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child attending any nonpublic school, or the appropriate school official for any or all children attending a nonpublic school shall complete a "certificate of enrollment" in order to facilitate the administration of this section.
The form of the certificate of enrollment shall be prepared by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement of the State Department of Education and shall be designed to obtain the following information only:
(i) The name, address, telephone number and date of birth of the compulsory-school-age child;
(ii) The name, address and telephone number of the parent, guardian or custodian of the compulsory-school-age child;
(iii) A simple description of the type of education the compulsory-school-age child is receiving and, if the child is enrolled in a nonpublic school, the name and address of the school; and
(iv) The signature of the parent, guardian or custodian of the compulsory-school-age child or, for any or all compulsory-school-age child or children attending a nonpublic school, the signature of the appropriate school official and the date signed.
The certificate of enrollment shall be returned to the school attendance officer where the child resides on or before September 15 of each year. Any parent, guardian or custodian found by the school attendance officer to be in noncompliance with this section shall comply, after written notice of the noncompliance by the school attendance officer, with this subsection within ten (10) days after the notice or be in violation of this section. However, in the event the child has been enrolled in a public school within fifteen (15) calendar days after the first day of the school year as required in subsection (6), the parent or custodian may, at a later date, enroll the child in a legitimate nonpublic school or legitimate home instruction program and send the certificate of enrollment to the school attendance officer and be in compliance with this subsection.
For the purposes of this subsection, a legitimate nonpublic school or legitimate home instruction program shall be those not operated or instituted for the purpose of avoiding or circumventing the compulsory attendance law.
(4) An "unlawful absence" is an absence during a school day by a compulsory-school-age child, which absence is not due to a valid excuse for temporary nonattendance. Days missed from school due to disciplinary suspension shall not be considered an "excused" absence under this section. This subsection shall not apply to children enrolled in a nonpublic school.
Each of the following shall constitute a valid excuse for temporary nonattendance of a compulsory-school-age child enrolled in a public school, provided satisfactory evidence of the excuse is provided to the superintendent of the school district, or his designee:
(a) An absence is excused when the absence results from the compulsory-school-age child's attendance at an authorized school activity with the prior approval of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee. These activities may include field trips, athletic contests, student conventions, musical festivals and any similar activity.
(b) An absence is excused when the absence results from illness or injury which prevents the compulsory-school-age child from being physically able to attend school.
(c) An absence is excused when isolation of a compulsory-school-age child is ordered by the county health officer, by the State Board of Health or appropriate school official.
(d) An absence is excused when it results from the death or serious illness of a member of the immediate family of a compulsory-school-age child. The immediate family members of a compulsory-school-age child shall include children, spouse, grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, including stepbrothers and stepsisters.
(e) An absence is excused when it results from a medical or dental appointment of a compulsory-school-age child.
(f) An absence is excused when it results from the attendance of a compulsory-school-age child at the proceedings of a court or an administrative tribunal if the child is a party to the action or under subpoena as a witness.
(g) An absence may be excused if the religion to which the compulsory-school-age child or the child's parents adheres, requires or suggests the observance of a religious event. The approval of the absence is within the discretion of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, but approval should be granted unless the religion's observance is of such duration as to interfere with the education of the child.
(h) An absence may be excused when it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, that the purpose of the absence is to take advantage of a valid educational opportunity such as travel, including vacations or other family travel. Approval of the absence must be gained from the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, before the absence, but the approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.
(i) An absence may be excused when it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, that conditions are sufficient to warrant the compulsory-school-age child's nonattendance. However, no absences shall be excused by the school district superintendent, or his designee, when any student suspensions or expulsions circumvent the intent and spirit of the compulsory attendance law.
(5) Any parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child subject to this section who refuses or willfully fails to perform any of the duties imposed upon him or her under this section or who intentionally falsifies any information required to be contained in a certificate of enrollment, shall be guilty of contributing to the neglect of a child and, upon conviction, shall be punished in accordance with Section 97-5-39.
Upon prosecution of a parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child for violation of this section, the presentation of evidence by the prosecutor that shows that the child has not been enrolled in school within eighteen (18) calendar days after the first day of the school year of the public school which the child is eligible to attend, or that the child has accumulated twelve (12) unlawful absences during the school year at the public school in which the child has been enrolled, shall establish a prima facie case that the child's parent, guardian or custodian is responsible for the absences and has refused or willfully failed to perform the duties imposed upon him or her under this section. However, no proceedings under this section shall be brought against a parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child unless the school attendance officer has contacted promptly the home of the child and has provided written notice to the parent, guardian or custodian of the requirement for the child's enrollment or attendance.
(6) If a compulsory-school-age child has not been enrolled in a school within fifteen (15) calendar days after the first day of the school year of the school which the child is eligible to attend or the child has accumulated five (5) unlawful absences during the school year of the public school in which the child is enrolled, the school district superintendent or his designee shall report, within two (2) school days or within five (5) calendar days, whichever is less, the absences to the school attendance officer. The State Department of Education shall prescribe a uniform method for schools to utilize in reporting the unlawful absences to the school attendance officer. The superintendent, or his designee, also shall report any student suspensions or student expulsions to the school attendance officer when they occur.
(7) When a school attendance officer has made all attempts to secure enrollment and/or attendance of a compulsory-school-age child and is unable to effect the enrollment and/or attendance, the attendance officer shall file a petition with the youth court under Section 43-21-451 or shall file a petition in a court of competent jurisdiction as it pertains to parent or child. Sheriffs, deputy sheriffs and municipal law enforcement officers shall be fully authorized to investigate all cases of nonattendance and unlawful absences by compulsory-school-age children, and shall be authorized to file a petition with the youth court under Section 43-21-451 or file a petition or information in the court of competent jurisdiction as it pertains to parent or child for violation of this section. The youth court shall expedite a hearing to make an appropriate adjudication and a disposition to ensure compliance with the Compulsory School Attendance Law, and may order the child to enroll or re-enroll in school. The superintendent of the school district to which the child is ordered may assign, in his discretion, the child to the alternative school program of the school established pursuant to Section 37-13-92.
(8) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules and regulations for the purpose of reprimanding any school superintendents who fail to timely report unexcused absences under the provisions of this section.
(9) Notwithstanding any provision or implication herein to the contrary, it is not the intention of this section to impair the primary right and the obligation of the parent or parents, or person or persons in loco parentis to a child, to choose the proper education and training for such child, and nothing in this section shall ever be construed to grant, by implication or otherwise, to the State of Mississippi, any of its officers, agencies or subdivisions any right or authority to control, manage, supervise or make any suggestion as to the control, management or supervision of any private or parochial school or institution for the education or training of children, of any kind whatsoever that is not a public school according to the laws of this state; and this section shall never be construed so as to grant, by implication or otherwise, any right or authority to any state agency or other entity to control, manage, supervise, provide for or affect the operation, management, program, curriculum, admissions policy or discipline of any such school or home instruction program.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2012.