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MS Legislature Likely To Pass Bill To Protect Schools, Colleges From Harm

The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Mississippi legislature will likely pass a bill in the 2016 legislature session that will allow school safety plan documents to be exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act.

If passed, Bill No. 2678 will go into law on July 1, 2016, and make school emergency/safety plans no longer a public document. Senator Gray Tollison, an Oxford native, is the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and shed some light on why the bill was created.

“The bill was introduced at the request of the Miss. Department of Education (MDE),” Senator Tollison said. “Pursuant to Mississippi Code Ann. Section 37-3-83, school safety plans are required to be developed by school districts across the state to prevent and prepare for school violence.”

According to Tollison, the bill would prevent the school emergency/safety plans to be used in a way for harm.

“MDE requested that these plans be exempted from the public records act, so the public would not have access to sensitive information in case of an emergency at a school,” Senator Tollison said. “In other words, MDE did not want the school safety plan to be used in a way that could be harmful to public safety at the school.”

Senator Gray Tollison
Senator Gray Tollison

The bill would amend The Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983, which “provides that all public records are public property and that any person has the right to inspect or obtain a copy thereof subject to certain procedures concerning costs, time, place and method of access.”

Bill No. 2678 would also exempt the following from The Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983: public school test and answer sheets, letters of recommendation to an educational agency or institution and certain university and community college documents and protocols.

The bill is still active in the legislative session, and requires a majority vote to pass. So far, it has been passed by the senate and the house. As of March 28, the bill has been returned for enrolling. To read the entire bill, visit billstatus.com. Keep up with the status of the bill here.

Emily Newton is a staff reporter for HottyToddy.com, and the editor of Experience Oxford magazine. She holds a journalism degree and political science minor from the University of Mississippi. Emily can be reached at emily.newton@hottytoddy.com.



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