State Representative Jay Hottinger
71st House District
New Bill Takes a Look At School Safety
Our faith has certainly been tested in the past year. We have witnessed unspeakable tragedy across thecountry. Sandy Hook, Boston, and the Navy Yard shooting have all been deeply saddening. When a tragedy strikes, it doesn’t only affect the community in which it occurs, but the entire nation.
When tragedy hits us at first we are all saddened, but often times it results in the resolve of a community getting stronger and more united. We have all marveled at the phenomenon of communities who have grown stronger due to dramatic trauma by pulling together through prayer, support, and volunteerism and increased civic and community resolve and pride. We saw it most recently in the Boston community after the Boston Marathon tragedy and the community strength that was on display in the weeks following, culminating during the Yankees/ Red Sox game and the baseball World Series.
Tragedies that involve children and our schools are especially emotional taxing. Who can forget the horrific scenes and images from Sandy Hook Connecticut, and even right here in Ohio with the violence in Chardon? Recently, a local school superintendent reached out to me and Representative Bill Hayes concerning a lack of options at his disposal when dealing with dangerous students who make serious and threatening comments and admissions concerning specific students and school personnel.
After exhausting the maximum punishment that is currently allowed by Ohio law, superintendents face the difficult dilemma of allowing students back in school while knowing there remains great evidence that the student poses a serious and potential life-threatening threat to the school community. With such students continuing to exhibit serious warning signs and red flags – what is one to do?
As a result of the local educator reaching out to us, Rep. Hayes and I recently introduced H.B. 334 which is aimed at giving school districts and superintendents more tools to be able to deal with students who pose an “imminent and severe endangerment to the health and safety of other students or school employees.” Our bill would allow for a process for schools to be able to expel a student for up to 180 days and it would establish criteria for terminating the expulsion early or continuing the expulsion when warranted.
We also looked at what happens after the student is separated from the rest of the student body. Simply sending a student that is deemed dangerous home is not a good option because he or she can also be a danger to him/herself, or the community at large. Therefore our bill also establishes a plan for the student to receive continued education during the expulsion period and there is also a requirement for the student to receive consultation with trained professionals to ensure they are receiving appropriate behavior assessments and assistance where warranted.
Giving local school districts greater ability to address the potential dangers posed by students that become a threat to their peers and school staff is important so that our children can learn in environments without fear. Making schools safer while providing for the needs of the troubled student and preserving their due process rights is the aim of this legislation.
Too many tragedies occur throughout America. As Representative Hayes has said, “We must do all we can to protect students and school personnel from risks before a bad act occurs, not after the damage has been done. This bill gives schools another tool.” I think we can all agree that nobody wants to find themselves in a situation where an act of violence is committed and are then faced with the question of ‘What could we have done to prevent this?’ Our legislation will provide school administrators with the ability to not only remove a student from the classroom, but to ensure that they are receiving the help they need to overcome their aggressive behavior.
Representative Hayes and I look forward to working with our local educators, law enforcement, and mental health providers and other stakeholders on their ideas to improve school safety in Ohio.
Rep. Hottinger may
be reached by calling (614) 466-1482, e-mailing Rep71@ohiohouse.gov or writing
to State Representative Jay Hottinger, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio