A bill removing a provision in the law allowing school districts to hire relatives of the district’s superintendents and principals passed the Senate on Wednesday.

State law defines a relative as a spouse, child, sibling or parent. The bill would, however, put in place a process for spouses of superintendents to be hired.

Senate Bill 2413 says that at the time a new superintendent is hired, his or her spouse may be employed “if and only if the spouse possesses all qualifications required for holding that position at the time the spouse is hired.”

Once a spouse is hired, the school board must choose a principal to recommend or not recommend the husband or wife for employment.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, unsuccessfully attempted to kill the bill by making a motion to recommit it.

“I’m asking you all to think about the school districts back home and about the situation back home. How many spouses of superintendents and teachers do you know and how many problems are there?” he asked.

He said many school districts in rural areas have trouble finding qualified employees.

“This is not a loophole, this is an intentional policy decision by the Legislature,” Bryan continued.

But Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said the suggestion for the bill came straight from the Ethics Commission, which receives complaints about violations in state government.

Tom Hood, executive director of the Commission, said in a letter to Education Committee chairmen the fact relatives of superintendents and principals can be hired in their own districts and schools is “unique to education and is not found in other areas of government.”

Hood said he was asked by the Ethics Commission to request that a bill be introduced this session.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.