Members of the DeSoto County School District (DCS) Board of Education discussed a wide range of topics during a public work session Tuesday morning at the district offices in Hernando.
An issue that received much of the discussion, however, centered on how much time in school a student-athlete would need to have attended the day of a game or event that the student was taking part in.
What is now agreed on at each individual high school may soon become a district policy, as board members are considering.
District Director of Athletics Anthony Jenkins said the schools currently have what is called a 60-percent rule, meaning a student needs to be in school at least 60 percent of that particular day to be able to play a game or take part in an activity on that day.
Jenkins added, however, that two of the DCS high schools take that one step further.
“Right now, all of our schools abide by the 60-percent rule, meaning that a student has to be in school 60 percent of the day in order to participate in an activity that particular night,” Jenkins said. “Two of the schools, DeSoto Central and Southaven, have a 50-percent rule, but the 50-percent rule is where the student has to be there for two academic periods. They cannot count the athletic period as one of them.”
Any future policy decision by the DCS board may set the tone for future policies at other Mississippi public school districts, Jenkins noted, because state officials don’t have across-the-board mandates on the attendance issue.
Jenkins, a former football coach and athletic director at Hernando High School, is a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Executive Council and was President of the Council last year.
“Our association does not have a policy that says that a student has to be in school a certain amount of the day to be able to practice or participate,” Jenkins said. “That’s left up to the individual districts. The state department recommends that students be in school a certain percentage of the day but they don’t have a policy, either.”
Board members seemed in agreement to crafting a policy on athlete attendance, in particular board member Sheila Riley, who spoke out in favor of a direct policy.
“I don’t want to hamper a kid from playing,” Riley said. “But they have to have a reason to play. If a kid would have to be in school 60 percent of the day to be able to play, he would come to school.”
Supt. Cory Uselton did point out that the district needed to be careful in how a policy was written.
“We have to ask the coaches to hold the athletes accountable,” Uselton said. “Are you also counting athletic blocks or just academic blocks? Is it also a school day or just their day, because a senior might have only two blocks. Those are some of the variables we have to look at.”
Another part of the equation, it was brought up, was how to handle special circumstances, such as family funerals or other such emergencies that would take a youngster away from class.
It is expected that a policy proposal would be brought up for consideration at the recessed meeting in April.
Board members at the work session talked about a desire to move the first meeting of the month from its current Monday date to the first Thursday of the month, beginning in July, and to move the date of the election for new board officers from March to July, to put it more in line with the school calendar.
Also discussed was a new agreement with the CareDox nursing system to allow school nurses to more readily access student health information and allow for more immediate alerts to parents should a student have a health issue in school.
Disciple statistics were reviewed, as was a study of the district’s building conditions. Board members also held an executive session, presumably to review the situation with the board’s legal representation. The contract with current attorney Keith Treadway is done at the end of June and board members have determined to look at other options for its legal representation.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.