Unfortunately, one of the most pressing issues our nation is facing these days is school safety. Considering recent tragedies, it is more important than ever to ensure parents feel comfortable sending their kids to school and that those children have a safe, focused environment in which to learn.
To address this matter, the Ohio House is working toward a number of solutions to strengthen our school systems and prepare them should an unexpected incident occur on school grounds.
I’m proud that my colleague, Representative Andrew Brenner, has tasked the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, which he chairs, to focus on school safety and take a comprehensive look at ways to keep school buildings and activities safe from harm. The committee will hear from all interested parties and experts to determine best practices.
Additionally, the House passed a bill last week to create an annual sales tax holiday on school materials and clothing during the first weekend of August.
Within this legislation, we included a provision to give educational service centers (ESC) the authority to levy a property tax to fund school security and mental health services.
This initiative encourages local control and allows an individual school district to decide whether or not it needs additional funds for the purpose of school safety.
Further, the House is currently discussing another school safety bill, a bipartisan effort championed by Representatives Sarah LaTourette and John Patterson.
House Bill 318 would create guidelines and responsibilities for school resource officers (SRO), a position that is not currently defined in state law.
While school districts are able to hire SROs, there are no requirements for their training. The bill would require an individual to complete 40 hours of specialized training approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy within the first year of his or her hire.
Under the measure, school resource officers must also sign a memorandum of understanding created by the district, acknowledging the purpose of the role and their associated duties.
Not only will the bill create standards for a position that many consider necessary for schools, but it may also encourage more schools to hire qualified individuals as SROs, bolstering security objectives.
School safety has become increasingly necessary, and it is an emotional issue that requires a multifaceted and considerate approach. I’m confident the House is looking at all sides to establish creative solutions that work to improve the safety of our schools.
At the end of the day, it is vital that we prepare schools with the ability to respond to incidents and protect our students and teachers from harm.
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) represents the 91st District, which includes Clinton County.