Governor DeWine outlines next steps for enhancing student and teacher safety

COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Friday outlined Ohio’s next steps for enhancing the safety of Ohio’s students, teachers, and school personnel.

“We continue to pray for the families who have lost their children; there’s nothing in the world more difficult than losing a child,” said DeWine. “It is important to identify early on someone who is having problems in order to intervene and get them the help they need. We must do more to strengthen our schools’ physical security, and we must ensure school personnel have the proper training and support to keep themselves and their students safe. While our work continues, I commend Ohio’s school officials, who have worked very hard over the last few years to prepare, prevent, avert, and avoid tragedies.”

The priorities announced Friday will focus on helping school officials evaluate potential threats and develop appropriate responses, as well as improve the physical security of school buildings and campuses. According to a press release on Friday, DeWine also plans to further expand Ohio’s behavioral health workforce to increase access to mental health services when and where they are needed and will continue offering ongoing support to Ohio’s law enforcement agencies to prevent violent crime.

The following include DeWine’s plan for enhancing student and teacher safety:

Comprehensive Behavioral Threat Assessment Training for Ohio Educators: The Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Department of Education will provide comprehensive, evidence-based behavioral threat assessment training for all Ohio educators. This training will help schools comply with H.B. 123, sponsored by Rep. Gayle Manning during the last General Assembly, which requires some schools to have threat assessment teams. Threat assessment models help schools and teachers uniformly evaluate troubling student behaviors, develop plans for intervention, and connect students in need to services.

Enhanced Statewide Safety Support for Schools: DeWine announced the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) will increase its number of regional school liaisons across the state. DeWine created the OSSC in 2019 and added five school liaison positions in 2020. These liaisons assist schools in implementing best practices in physical school safety, training, and planning in each of the Ohio Department of Education’s 16 State Support Team regions. The expanded team will also assist schools and law enforcement with conducting annual security and vulnerability assessments to ensure security practices are up to date.

Improved Physical Safety in Ohio’s School Buildings: Every school building in the state, public and private, should meet the best practices for physical school safety. DeWine will work with the Ohio General Assembly to invest more funding to assist school districts with enhancing the physical safety and security of their schools. This funding will be in addition to previous capital investments in Ohio schools which included $5 million to fund K-12 safety measures.

Enhanced Penalties for Violent Crime: Because most gun violence is committed by a relatively small number of repeat violent offenders who do not have the legal right to possess a gun, penalties for violent offenders must be strengthened. DeWine called on the Ohio General Assembly to swiftly pass House Bill 383, sponsored by Representative Kyle Koehler, which increases the penalty for violent offenders who continue to illegally obtain and possess firearms.

Accurate and Complete Background Checks: DeWine has used his executive authority to ensure more of the information necessary for accurate background checks is entered into the federal background check systems. Since forming a task force to study the issue in 2019, the number of warrants entered into the National Crime Information Center database has increased by more than 1,000%. Despite this progress, legislative change is needed to ensure background checks are accurate. DeWine called on the Ohio General Assembly to mandate that local court and law enforcement agencies enter all of their warrants and protection orders into the appropriate state and national databases within 48 hours after they are issued.

DeWine also reminded Ohioans about the Safer Ohio School Tip Line, which is Ohio’s free, statewide resource to anonymously report school safety concerns. Ohioans can call or text 844-SAFEROH (844-723-3764) at any time of day.

“While there is more work to do so Ohioans have peace of mind knowing their children’s focus in school can be on learning and preparing for the future, we have made great strides in emphasizing the importance of good mental health and wellness, while giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to keep our communities safe,” said DeWine.

“The enhancements outlined today by Governor DeWine will go a long way toward ensuring a safer and more secure school environment for students, teachers, and staff all across Ohio,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath. “As it has since its creation by Governor DeWine in 2019, the Ohio School Safety Center will continue to provide assistance to schools and partner with local law enforcement to protect those attending and working at Ohio’s schools.”

“Ohio’s students, educators and staff count on us to keep them safe. I join with Governor DeWine and our state’s school leaders in continuing Ohio’s critical focus on school safety,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephen D. Dackin said. “It is vital that our schools have the resources necessary to focus on the well-being of learners, the training needed for educators and staff and the understanding among every Ohioan that school safety is our number one priority.”