May 26, 2022 - News

School safety bills, programs to watch in Ohio

Illustration of a pencil with security-style yellow and black stripes.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

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.

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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