Peter ZawadskiApril 22, 2021

The “Safety and Violence Education Students Act,” also known as the “SAVE Students Act,” took effect March 24, 2021. Enacted as part of H.B. 123, the Act requires Ohio school districts to provide youth suicide awareness education and training and to implement threat mitigation efforts.

Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, districts must register with the “SaferOH” tip line or a permissible alternative. The “SaferOH” tip line is operated by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.  It allows students and adults to anonymously share information with school officials and law enforcement about threats to student safety, regardless of whether the threat involves a single student or a mass incident. Calls are answered by Ohio Homeland Security analysts.  If action is needed, information is immediately forwarded to local school officials, law enforcement agencies and the Ohio School Safety Center for follow up.  School districts can also contract with an alternative anonymous reporting program, as long as it offers comparable services.

Districts are required to submit data to the Ohio Departments of Education (ODE) and Public Safety related to their participation in these reporting programs. The following data must be submitted at the end of each school year:

  1. The number and type of disciplinary actions taken in the previous year as a result of reports received;
  2. The number and type of mental wellness referrals as a result of anonymous reports;
  3. The race and gender of the students subject to disciplinary actions and mental wellness referrals; and
  4. Any other information that the ODE or Department of Public Safety determine necessary.

Starting with the 2023-24 school year, school districts must provide annual student instruction in: 1) suicide awareness and prevention; 2) safety training and violence prevention; and 3) social inclusion.  The ODE will maintain a list of the approved training programs. At least one of the offered trainings must be free to schools. The student instruction will be for grades 6-12 and last approximately one hour as part of the health curriculum. Staff training programs on youth suicide awareness and prevention developed by the ODE will satisfy the biennial professional development requirements.

In addition, the Act calls on building administrators to incorporate a school threat assessment plan into a building’s existing emergency management plan. This plan may utilize a model plan to be developed at the state level.  By March 24, 2023, school districts are required to create a threat assessment team for each building serving grades 6-12. An existing school safety team may serve as the school threat assessment team as long as each team member complies with new certification requirements.

The SAVE Students Act contains additional details, including the subjects to be covered in various training programs. If you have questions or require additional information, we are ready and able to assist you.

Peter Zawadski is a partner at Walter | Haverfield who focuses his practice on education law as well as labor and employment matters. He can be reached at pzawadski@walterhav.com and at 216-928-2920.