School safety bills, programs to watch in Ohio
School violence is top of mind for many families this week, following our country's deadliest school shooting in a decade.
What we're watching: A potential resurgence of interest in school safety proposals and funding in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting:
Arming school employees
- House Bill 99 would loosen training requirements to carry firearms in Ohio schools.
- The bill passed the House and awaits Senate action.
Police in schools
- House Bill 501 would allow districts — along with municipalities and townships — to levy property taxes to fund school resource officers.
- The bill has not made legislative progress as of Wednesday.
- Between the lines: Police presence in schools has been hotly debated in districts like Columbus and Worthington, which both discontinued officer programs in 2020 due to nationwide scrutiny of police brutality.
- Columbus employs 104 unarmed security guards, unaffiliated with police, and plans to hire 35 more this year, superintendent Talisa Dixon said Wednesday.
Funding for security equipment
- The state regularly issues grants for districts to install items such as cameras, locks and public address systems. A funding announcement from Gov. Mike DeWine came five days before the shooting.
Prevention and training
- Starting in 2023, Ohio schools serving sixth through 12th grades are required by law to establish threat assessment teams to detect signs of violence and develop intervention plans.
- Health classes must also dedicate time to suicide awareness and prevention, safety training, violence prevention and social inclusion.
- DeWine will assemble an Ohio Student Safety Advisory Council this year to give students a voice in finding solutions.
Of note: Ohio Homeland Security operates a school safety hotline (844-SAFEROH) that fields anonymous tips.
What they're saying: While "security theater" upgrades like cameras and metal detectors may make families feel safer, there's no quick fix to a complicated problem, Kenneth Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant, tells Axios.
- A bipartisan response to the issue of gun violence is crucial — but with every tragedy, people become more polarized, he says.
- "The violence in schools reflects the violence and underlying issues of a broader community. Schools need to be a part of the response, but they can't solve the whole problem."
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