JACKSON — Mississippi’s state Board of Education is making another move toward rolling back penalties that strip troubled school districts of their ability to compete in high school sports and other activities.
The board is seeking public comment on a proposal that would give a district that loses state accreditation a year to remedy problems before losing half its games or competitions.
Right now, districts that lose accreditation lose half their games immediately.
The board could vote on final passage later this month.
When board members adopted the policy in 2012, they had intended limits on sports to motivate community intervention in troubled schools. But administrators in the three districts that have been penalized say that instead, athletes just transfer out.
The agreement for shortened seasons was actually a compromise. Originally, the board had proposed an outright ban, but agreed to two years of shortened seasons before a ban would take effect. Now, under the new proposal, a district would get a year to remedy accreditation violations before losing any activities.
Four districts had lost some interscholastic competitions — Claiborne County, Leflore County, Oktibbeha County, and Yazoo City.
If violations remained after a year, the district would lose half its games. At that level, district games are allowed, but not playoffs. Cheerleading, dance squads, speech and debate, chorus and band can participate in district or state contests, but can’t get ratings.
If violations remained after two years, the district would still lose all its interscholastic activities.
The provision that would allow automatic transfers from unaccredited districts would remain.
Don Hinton, executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, which oversees sports and activities for public schools and some private schools, said his group supports the change. He noted that individual students have to make passing grades to participate.
“We feel like the value of participation in activities is so great that we’d be in favor of other ways to have a deterrent,” Hinton said.
Already, in February, the board adopted an emergency rule that says when a district is taken over by the state, accreditation would not automatically be withdrawn. That move cleared the way for Gov. Phil Bryant to declare a state of emergency in the Scott County school district.
The governor had balked at declaring an emergency in the B-rated district, saying it would unfairly penalize students. State reports found the district’s then-superintendent was acting improperly and local school board members took the unusual step of calling for a state takeover, even though it meant giving up their own posts.
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