School safety is a huge issue in our state and nation today. While we never want to hear of violence or threats in schools, the unfortunate reality is that we are seeing it in the news way too often.
As parents, the safety of our children is top priority. When we send them to school, we expect them to learn in a safe and caring environment. Tragic school events cause us to pause, while we hope and pray a similar situation would never happen to our own children.
Being a parent and a legislator, I want to do all I can to ensure Ohio children can focus on learning and be spared from any threats posed by troubled youth. This is why I recently introduced Senate Bill 276. This legislation would strengthen the ability of Ohio’s school districts to address dangerous behaviors among students. It stems from a local incident brought to my attention by Superintendent David Hile, of Licking Valley Schools.
Under current law, a student must commit a serious violation of the school’s code of conduct before a school superintendent can expel the student for the remainder of the semester. While this approach is a helpful tool for superintendents to use, for students violating the school’s code, it does not adequately address students who threaten to harm school personnel or other students. I firmly believe schools should have the means to address threats before any type of harmful action could take place.
Senate Bill 276 would permit school boards to authorize Ohio superintendents to expel students up to 180 days for actions that pose an “imminent and severe endangerment to the health and safety of other pupils or school employees." In addition to the expulsion portion of the bill, it also helps get to the underlying problems of troubled youth by addressing mental health issues.
Upon expulsion of the student, the superintendent would create conditions for the student to satisfy before returning to school. One of the conditions is a mental health assessment to determine if the student poses a threat to themselves, other students, or school employees. The assessment would be performed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or school psychologist. Because of the assessment, parents could then be provided with the direction and referrals they could use to get the appropriate mental health treatment for their child.
To address educational needs, the superintendent must consult with the student and the parents to develop a plan for the continued education of the student. This will ensure the student’s educational requirements are still being met even though they are under expulsion. The plan may provide for instruction at home, enrollment in another school, or education by the district in an alternative setting.
At the end of the expulsion period, the superintendent must assess the student to determine whether conditions have been met and the student has shown sufficient rehabilitation to be reinstated. If the superintendent determines the student has not shown sufficient rehabilitation, the superintendent may extend the expulsion.
Giving superintendents more ability to expel students for threatening actions will help prevent tragic events from happening in Ohio schools. By providing a mental health assessment and ensuring the student’s education will continue during expulsion, Senate Bill 276 will help rehabilitate and educate troubled youth and give them the positive direction they need.
With this legislation, I hope the education news headlines we see in the future will only portray a positive message about the safety and success of students in Ohio.