OAG 97-15

May 15, 1997

Subject: Authority to close extracurricular activity practice sessions

Written by: Diane Schuler Fleming

Requested by: William E. Mitchell, attorney for the Webster County Board of Education

Syllabus: A local school board has the authority to issue a policy requiring that all extracurricular practice sessions are to be open to parents.

Statute construed: KRS 160.345(2)(i)

Opinion of the Attorney General

An opinion request has been sent to our office concerning the Webster County Board of Education's policy on extracurricular activity practice sessions which requires all such practices to be open to parents. Apparently, however, a local coach has challenged this policy claiming that the school council may issue a policy to the contrary. Thus, we are asked to determine whether the local school board or the school council has the authority to adopt policies which govern these activities.

The powers granted to school-based decision-making councils are set forth in KRS 160.345, which states in relevant part:

(2)(i) The school council shall adopt a policy to be implemented by the principal in the following additional areas:

1. Determination of curriculum, including needs assessment and curriculum development;

. . .

5. Determination of use of school space during the school day;

. . .

8. Selection of extracurricular programs and determination of policies relating to student participation based on academic qualifications and attendance requirements, program evaluation and supervision;

Clearly, the school council has the power to determine which extracurricular programs are offered at the school, and the ability to set the standards required for student participation. In addition, the council is required to evaluate and supervise such programs. The specific question before us, however, is whether the decision to close extracurricular practice sessions is included in a school council's supervisory powers.

We begin with a review of the recent Supreme Court decision in Board of Education of Boone Co. v. Bushee, Ky., 889 S.W.2d 809 (1994). There, the court discussed at length the delegation of power and sphere of responsibility of state government, local school boards and school councils. In summary, the court found that state government bears the responsibility of providing adequate funding for the schools and is accountable for the overall success of Kentucky's education reforms. The local school boards are responsible for the general management and control of school funds and school property, as well as the appointment of a superintendent and setting the compensation of the employees.

Noting that decentralization of authority is a primary objective of KERA, the court found that each school council is responsible for setting the policies of its own school. Clearly, however, the question here isn't whether a school council can set policies, rather it is a question of what is meant by the use of the term "supervision" in KRS 160.345(2)(i)8.

Our review of this statute reinforces the conclusion that the school councils are given broad power to determine both the curriculum and the extracurricular activities available in their schools. However, as we see in subsection 5 above, their authority over the use of the building's space is restricted to the school day. Logically then it falls to the local school board to determine the relevant policies affecting the use of school property after hours, such as determining whether or not a practice session is open to parents.

In conclusion, KRS 160.345 (2) grants the local school boards the authority to issue policies requiring that all extracurricular practice sessions be open to parents. Therefore, the school-based decision-making councils do not have the right to enact policies in contravention of the local school boards' policies in such matters. We believe this opinion is in agreement not only with the legislative intent, but also with the delegation of power set forth in the Bushee case.