COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A bill that defines what School Resource Officers (SRO) are and sets guidelines for their training is being used as a vessel to provide further school safety funding.
The bill was reassigned to the House Finance Committee where its sponsors briefed members on its contents Tuesday.
It originally passed out of the House Education Committee unanimously and will now be added to in the form of a one-time grant program.
The exact amount of money in the program has not yet been defined, nor has all of its uses. We have learned that the uses will be restricted to paying for the training the bill requires as well as school safety equipment.
Some examples of equipment given include door jams, protective window glaze, screening apparatus, and gun lockers for districts that allow teachers to carry weapons.
The bill does not mandate the use of SRO’s but does set requirements for their training if they are used.
The idea is to have all SRO’s receive uniform training while allowing school districts flexibility in deciding how the SRO’s will be used, what their dress code will be, and a host of other aspects the sponsors feel the state should not play a role in mandating.
The importance of defining SRO’s is clear. “If the state ever wants to step in and try to fund a position like this, or help schools fund a position like this, we have to be able to define it,” said LaTourette.
Both LaTourette and Patterson would like to see SRO’s in every school in Ohio, but say the legislature should not mandate that because every school district is different and should be able to determine what level of protection is right for them.
The changes to the bill are a result of recent school shootings. According to the sponsors, they have been working on this legislation for nearly two years.
At a recent working group for school funding LaTourette and Patterson participate in, the lawmakers say 50 of the 60 minutes of the meeting were spent discussing the need to calculate the cost of mental health and school safety into the base cost of educating students in Ohio.
Patterson and LaTourette say that discussion shows they are serious about coming up with solutions that will keep Ohio students safe and their legislation is the first step in that process.
The bill is expected to have a number of hearings to hash out the details of the grant program and how it will work. Once it passes the committee, it will head back to the House floor for a vote there before potentially moving on to the Senate to begin the second half of its legislative journey.