Gov. DeWine signs House Bill 99, outlines latest school safety efforts

Governor Mike DeWine (R) is joined by Lt. Governor Jon Husted and representatives from the Ohio Statehouse. (Governor Mike DeWine, via Facebook)

TOLEDO, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, during a Monday press conference in the state’s capital, signed House Bill 99, which would allow school districts to arm staff members for the protection of students. DeWine also announced additional school safety measures.

So, what exactly does the bill do? Sponsored by State Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township), it:

Allows the previous practice of permitting school boards to choose to arm specific staff members, while mandating reasonable training requirements for those individuals. For decades, state law was generally understood to permit law enforcement officers, security officers employed by the local school board, and “any other person who has written authorization from the board of education or governing body of a school” to be armed on school grounds.

Ohio law did not previously address training for this third category of individuals, however, a split-decision ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court last year interpreted statutes related to this category of individuals as requiring more than 700 hours of basic peace officer training (most of which is unrelated to school safety i.e., traffic stop procedures, crash investigations, radar gun operation) or 20 years of law enforcement experience, making the third option impractical for most schools.

The bill does *not* mandate the arming of school staff members, but leaves the decision entirely to local school boards, which have the best understanding of the needs of their individual districts.

Appropriates $6 million over the remainder of the current budget cycle to expand the Ohio School Safety Center and create a new OSSC Safety & Crisis Division. The new OSSC Safety & Crisis Division will be led by a chief mobile training officer who will oversee 16 new regional training officers, working within the 16 established Ohio Department of Education school safety support team regions. This new team of 17 OSSC staff members will develop the required initial training curriculum, yearly re-qualifying curriculum, and (optional) further training curriculum for those authorized by their school districts to carry a firearm on school grounds.

In addition to signing HB-99, DeWine has also requested that the OSSC expand its number of school safety liaison positions from five to 16. The 16 OSSC liaisons will also be based within the ODE school safety support team regions and will work with schools to implement a comprehensive school safety framework, by assisting them to secure school safety grant funding, conduct physical vulnerability assessments, and evaluate emotional and cyber safety. In total, 28 new employees (17 safety & crisis staff, 11 liaison staff) will be added to the OSSC in the coming months.

The governor has also worked with the Ohio General Assembly to secure $100 million in funding to help K-12 public, private, and parochial schools pay for physical safety and security upgrades. The funding, which is part of the new capital budget, will be awarded to schools as part of Governor DeWine’s existing K-12 School Safety Grant Program.

To help schools meet the requirements of House Bill 123 of the 133rd Ohio General Assembly, he has also directed the OSSC and Ohio Department of Education to offer free, evidence-based threat assessment training for Ohio schools. This specialized training, which focuses on identifying behavioral issues and assessing threats of violence, will first be provided to many of Ohio’s Educational Service Centers whose staff will then teach these guidelines to educators, support staff, school resource officers, and other school leaders across the state. House Bill 123 requires that all public schools serving grades 6-12 have a threat assessment team in place by March 24, 2023.

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Jaden Jefferson

Jaden Jefferson

🎥 MMJ / Reporter, Anchor🎤 🗞 | Dog lover! 🐾 | Taco. Fanatic. 🌮 | #Vaccinated | IG: @jaden_reports | Story idea? jadenjeffersonreports@gmail.com / DMs