Safe and Orderly Schools Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are school safety plans required for local school districts?

    Yes, statutory law of the regular session of the 1999 Mississippi Legislature [refer to Code Section 37-3-83 (2)] states that the school board of each school district, with the assistance of the State Department of Education School Safety Center, shall adopt a comprehensive local school district school safety plan and shall update the plan on an annual basis.
  • What are the minimum standards for school buses?

    The Mississippi minimum standards detail federal motor vehicle safety standards and state specifications for school buses.  Standards of safe construction and exact dimensions insure consistency with safety and efficiency to increase the quality of the school bus. [Refer to Code Section 37-41-1 (c)]
  • Are there guidelines for school building construction?

    The Office of Safe and Orderly Schools in collaboration with the Education Design Institute at Mississippi State University has published comprehensive guidelines entitled Mississippi School Design Guidelines for the design, construction, and maintenance of safe and effective K-12 school facilities.
  • Are there funds available for school building construction?

    No state aid for construction is available at this time; currently the State Public School Building Fund’s diversion is utilized to fund MAEP.
  • How does an individual become licensed and/or certified to drive a school bus?

    Individuals wishing to drive a school bus must be at least 18 years of age, possess a valid Commercial Driver License (CDL) with all applicable endorsements, have at least 20-40 visual acuity and be insurable by a third party insurance carrier. Additionally, applicants must pass a criminal background check and a drug screen test annually by the local school district. [Refer to MS Code Section 37-41-1 (d), (e)]
  • Why do school buses not have seat belts?

    First of all, only three states have seat belt laws pertaining to school buses and only one state enforces that law.  To that end, Mississippi is with the majority of states on this issue.  To be more specific, buses utilize compartmentalization for occupant protection.  The occupant in a crash moves freely into the padded seat in front of them thus spreading crash forces over a large part of their body.  The transfer of energy to the tissues of the body causes injury.  If all of the crash force is limited to a small area of the body, then the amount of injury to that part of the body is much greater.  If a student is in a lap belt only, then the upper body will move forward and the only part of the body to make contact with the seat in front of them will be the head/neck region.  As in football, you never want to make contact with the top of your head while making a tackle; you also never want to make contact with the seat in front of the occupant with the top of their head.  Additionally, children under the age of 12 have a pelvis that is not fully developed. Because of this, a lap belt will not stay in their lap region.  It will either rest on their abdomen or will rest on the thighs.  If the lap belt rests on the abdominal region, enough crash force could be exerted that the spinal column could snap or internal injuries could occur.  If the lap belt rests on top of the thighs, then if the occupant submarines in a crash, it could impact the neck region.  In automobiles, a lap/shoulder belt is utilized which lessens the forward movement in a crash.  That is why it is vital that the child does not place the shoulder harness behind them while sitting in a vehicle.  If the child is doing this, then the child has an improper fit due to not being tall enough for the shoulder belt to fit properly.  If the child places the shoulder harness behind their back, then in a crash the force will impact the abdominal region.  The shoulder is a very strong part of the body and will withstand crash force much better than the abdominal region.  The solution for this problem is to place the child in a booster seat.  In regards to transporting Pre- Kindergarten students on school buses, the Mississippi Department of Education recommends that the proper child restraints be utilized.  The child restraints would either be a car seat or a safety vest.  Generally speaking, car seats are designed to be used by children up to 40 pounds.  After 40 pounds, a safety vest could be used. Lap belts are not a child restraint.  In the future, lap/shoulder belts will be available on school buses.  From a safety standpoint, this will be consistent with what you see in private vehicles and thus the occupant will be protected better.  However, all crashes stand alone by themselves.  In some cases, such as a fast moving train approaching a school bus at a railroad track or a bus which catches on fire or one that rolls over into water, occupants buckled into lap belts could panic which would prevent them from being able to unbuckle their lap belts, which would likely cause additional fatalities or serious injuries.
  • Can a school board or district establish and/or operate under policies that effectively alter the requirements to report crimes committed on school property?

    A school board has the authority to establish policies and procedures; however, these policies and procedures may not be in conflict with the requirements of Section 37-11-29 (which requires the reporting of crimes on school property).
  • What circumstances, if any, exist which justify the non-report of unlawful activity or an alleged unlawful activity of 37-11-29 (6)?

    Section 37-11-29 requires any school employee who has knowledge of one of the crimes set for in Paragraph (6) to report to the superintendent or his designee.  The superintendent/designee shall immediately notify law enforcement authorities.  It is not within the authority of administrators to refrain from reporting these crimes and only handle the matters administratively.
  • Is an arrest a necessary prerequisite to a Juvenile Incident Report being released to local law enforcement agency?

    An arrest is not a prerequisite to making an immediate report to local law enforcement.

    • Is a report made by a school administration to a school police officer employed by that district or a  School Resource Officer (SRO) sufficient to comply with Sections 37-9-14 and 37-11-29?  

    The reporting of unlawful activity to a district-employed law enforcement officer or SRO does not meet the reporting criteria for these statutes.

    • Does the expanded meaning for crimes to be reported by law enforcement to schools as opined in the 1997 AG Opinion to Anderton (all crimes not just the ones listed in 37-11-29 (6)) apply equally to schools? 

    The Superintendent is required to report any unlawful act that he reasonably believes occurred on educational property or during a school-related activity.  This requirement remains regardless of whether reasonable belief is established from the superintendent’s knowledge or from information relayed to the superintendent by a principal, teacher other school employee or a concerned citizen.  Furthermore, although this Section states that a superintendent is only required to report any act involving an offense set for in subsection (6), this office would advise a superintendent to report all acts believed to be a crime to local law enforcement, as law enforcement is the appropriate entity to make a factual determination as to what specific crime has been committed.

  • Is there a tool available to assess the school environment?

    Please visit www.epa.gov/schools

Office of Safe and Orderly Schools     P.O. Box 771     Jackson, MS 39205-0771     Phone: (601) 359-1028     Fax: (601) 359-3184

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