(Steve Wilson, The Center Square) Against a key deadline in the Mississippi legislature on Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced several bills that are now headed for a full chamber vote.
The committee approved a measure that would allow armed educators and staff in schools. Another would provide extra funding for school districts going to a non-traditional, year-round calendar. A third bill would allow public schools to compete against teams from home schools and private schools in extracurricular activities such as sports.
Senate Bill 2079, the Mississippi School Protection Act, is authored by state Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune. It would allow trained school employees who possess concealed carry permits to carry concealed at school. Each school district, charter school, community college or public university (which would require approval of the Institutes of Higher Learning) would have an option for armed employees, who’d have to receive firearms, communications, de-escalation and first aid training. Participants in the program would have to be recertified each year.
They’d also have to pass a background check and they’d be given immunity while they’re involved in the program.
The Department of Public Safety would develop rules for the training of these public school safety workers and their identities would be kept secret from the public.
“There’s no requirement for them (school districts and other educational institutions) to set it (armed school employee program) up,” Hill told the committee. “They choose the participants, who’d be a part of the program.”
Commissioner of public safety and former state Sen. Sean Tindell, who worked with Hill on drafting the bill, spoke to the committee. He said that while his preference would be for every school in the state to have a school resource officer, he understands that some districts are financially limited from being able to have an SRO in every school, especially in elementary schools.
“With the training, they’ll also receive communications training with local enforcement,” Tindell said. “During an active shooter situation, they’ll have that line of communication with local law enforcement.”
SB2599 is authored by state Sen. Chris Johnson, R-Hattiesburg, and would allow public schools to compete in extracurricular activities such as athletics and mathematics competitions with private and even home-school teams.
SB2361 would create a grant program for school districts to switch to a year-round calendar. Each school district under the legislation authored by Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, would be eligible for a maximum grant of $200,000 per year for three years after switching to a non-traditional calendar.
The amount awarded each year would be based on a budget for the switch submitted by the school district, the number of students in the district, and other factors which may increase the cost of delivery of services, including the rural nature of the school district.