On Friday, November 2, 2018, HB 318 goes into effect, which implements new school discipline procedures for students. It also mandates particular qualifications and specialized training requirements for school resource officers (SRO).
Changes to Student Discipline
HB 318 changes student suspension, expulsion and emergency removal procedures. These revised student discipline procedures are divided into two general categories: (1) provisions affecting all students regardless of grade level and (2) provisions applicable to students in grades pre-K through three.
Suspension, Expulsion and Emergency Removal Procedures for All Students, Regardless of Grade Level
HB 318 specifies several changes to suspension, expulsion and emergency removal procedures for all students, regardless of grade level:
- A student may be expelled for bringing or possessing a knife only if it is “capable of causing serious bodily injury,” as defined by the school district or school governing authority.
- A district or school is required (rather than permitted as under former law) to allow a student to complete classroom assignments missed during suspensions.
- An “in-school suspension” must, in its entirety, be served in a supervised learning environment.
- A superintendent or principal is no longer required to notify the treasurer within one school day after a student’s suspension. But, the requirement that the treasurer be notified within one school day after a student’s expulsion remains.
- If a student is emergency removed because his/her presence poses a danger to others or a threat of disrupting the classroom, the post-removal hearing must be held the next school day after removal.
Suspension, Expulsion and Emergency Removal Procedures for Students in Grades Pre-K through Three
HB 318 identifies significant procedural changes with respect to suspension and expulsion of students in grades pre-K through three:
- Schools are prohibited from issuing an out-of-school suspension or expulsion for a student in grades pre-K through three, except for serious offenses or as necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of the student, classmates, classroom staff and teachers, or others. This prohibition will be phased in over time with out-of-school suspensions for “minor offenses” for students in grades pre-K through three being completely eliminated by the 2021-2022 school year.
- Schools are still permitted to issue in-school suspensions so long as the suspension is served in a supervised learning environment.
- A student in grades pre-K through three who is emergency removed must be permitted to return to curricular and extracurricular activities on the school day following the day of the student’s removal. If the student returns to activities in accordance with this requirement, the district or school can forego the written notice and one-day post-removal hearing requirements. The school district may not initiate suspension or expulsion proceedings against the student unless (1) the student committed a serious offense, or (2) it is necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of the student, the student’s classmates or the classroom staff and teachers.
Changes to SRO Requirements
HB 318 defines the responsibilities of an SRO to include: providing a safe learning environment, fostering positive relationships, developing problem resolution strategies, assisting schools in adopting, implementing and amending comprehensive emergency management plans (including required consultation with local law enforcement and first responders), and providing resources to school staff. Most significantly related to SROs, HB 318 requires:
- 40 hours of specialized training for any SRO appointed on or after November 2, 2018. The training must be offered by the National or Ohio Association for School Resource Officers or a peace officer certified to conduct an SRO training course. This training includes information on the SRO’s role in discipline and communication with students; developmentally appropriate interview, interrogation, de-escalation and behavior management strategies; classroom management and support tools for students (including those with special needs); and drug use identification and prevention. Previously appointed SROs are exempt from these new specialized training hours, but require basic training approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission pursuant to Ohio law.
- Any school district that utilizes SRO services to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the appropriate law enforcement agency. The MOU should clarify the purpose and goals of the SRO program as well as the roles and expectations between participating entities. For previously appointed SROs, school districts have until November 1, 2019 to enter into the required MOU.
School districts are encouraged to learn the changes of HB 318 and implement the new requirements in a timely manner. It is also advisable to seek the input of legal counsel to proactively avoid any liability issues that may arise.
James McWeeney and Lisa Woloszynek are attorneys at Walter | Haverfield who focus their practices on education law. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 216-928-2959. Lisa can be reached at email@example.com and at 216-619-7835.