COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A new bill in the Ohio Statehouse more specifically lays out expulsion guidelines for students who pose an ‘imminent and severe endangerment’ to other students and staff in the school.
House Bill 206 is sponsored by Representatives Gary Click (R-Vickery) and Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana County); the sponsors said the goal is rehabbing students and getting them back into the classroom.
“The ultimate goal is to keep every child safe, every staff member safe,” Click said. “And along the way we want to make as many provisions as possible so we can also protect the child and make sure the child has the right mental healthcare they need.”
There are six ways imminent and severe endangerment is defined in this legislation, it includes bringing a firearm to school or school activities, committing an act that is a criminal offense when committed by an adult and making an articulated threat.
“Anyone who comes and does that has obvious mental health issues,” Click said. “So rather than demonize them as often happens, we say ‘okay, what brings a student to this place where they feel this is their only option.’”
That list of ‘imminent and severe’ activity was added to the bill after concerns were brought up about the way this legislation could be used to discriminate against students.
“We want to make sure this cannot be manipulated to be weaponized against a student,” Click said.
Current law allows for students under 16 to be readmitted unconditionally at the end of expulsion. Under this new bill if a student is expelled for any of the six reasons, they must see a psychiatrist or psychologist to determine whether they pose a danger to themselves or other people at the school.
At the end of the expulsion, the superintendent, alongside a ‘multidisciplinary’ team, must decide whether the student has shown sufficient rehabilitation to be reinstated.
“Let’s put some benchmarks up there,” Click said. “Let’s be sure the student has been able to receive the help necessary, some counseling and that the school is able to have assurance that the student is mentally healthy.”
Representative Sean Brennan (D-Parma) is a former educator and sits on the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee where this bill is being heard. He said while he typically does not think expulsion is effective, he thinks this bill can steer the state in the right direction.
“We’ve got to do more to protect not only that child from him or herself and the other children in the school and faculty members as well,” Brennan said. “And I think we are going to get there with this bill.”
If a student’s family or guardian cannot afford counseling that cost would be taken on by the district.
“We don’t want finances to be a barrier for them receiving the help they need,” Click said.
But the current text of the bill has no appropriation for those counseling costs.
“Superintendents have talked to me about this because my concern was ‘it’s an unfunded mandate,’” Brennan said. “But they’ve said to me ‘because these cases are outliers, and it doesn’t happen very often’ that they’re willing to take care of those costs.”
The bill also has a 15-day deadline for establishing an education plan for expelled students, something that is not currently explicitly laid out in Ohio law.
“This just provides that child with that right that they previously didn’t have,” Brennan said.
“That’s very important and we do want to make sure that the responsibility is fulfilled, and the child does receive the education,” Click said.
Chair of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, Representative Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) said this bill is likely to get several other amendments. He said that includes an amendment to address wording concerns expressed by some psychologists in the state.