What happens if a school official notices a student with a black eye? Should they send that child home on the bus? As it stands right now, school districts cannot contact the county youth court system to see if a child has a record of abuse without filing a written order. Dr. Janice Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of the Biloxi School District, says, "Before we put that child on the bus, we want to make sure they’re being put on the bus to go home to safe environment, and again, that’s information that the judge can share with us."
The Harrison County youth court is working with local school districts to get the state to allow a freer flow of information. The pilot program in Harrison County would allow a school district to enter a written memorandum of understanding with youth court to allow the disclosure of information on a need to know basis when emergency situations happen. Judge Margaret Alfonso, Harrison County Youth Court Judge, says, "When you’re dealing with children, we’re making critical decisions. We need all the information to make the critical decisions that we do."
Youth court says they do not have the manpower to write written orders on every case. This disclosure of information would be on an emergency basis and the information would be limited to either the school nurse or the school social worker. The information would not be kept in the child’s cumulative folder and would be destroyed after the child turns 21. Dr. Wilson also says, "We have seen the needs. We have had situations with children that have occurred previously, situations that have occurred this year that had he had this sharing of information in place, we could have more effectively helped the child and help that student sooner."
Monday, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors gave the court and the school districts the green light. Going through the Harrison County Board of Supervisors was just the first step. Now, the youth court and school districts will work closely with local legislators to get a bill dropped by the January 14th deadline.
News 25 spoke with local legislators who say they are confident the bill will pass and say this may be a program other counties will model off of in years to come.