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Vol. 37: Bullying and Suspension Policy Changes

Senate Bill 246 and House Bill 360

Ohio's State Legislature is currently reviewing 2 bills which impact suspensions, and bullying ins schools. 

State Representative Dave Greenspan (District 16) introduced  House Bill (HB) 360.  This bill would change suspension requirements for school districts regarding bullying, harassment, and intimidation.  A student's first offense would result in a suspension of 10 days.  The punishment for a second offense would result in a suspension of 30 days, and a third offense would result in expulsion for the remainder of the school year.  These suspensions would not prevent students from taking state assessment and K-3 students with disabilities would not be subject to these rules.  

Along with the new suspension policies, HB 360 would require all school boards in Ohio to review it's bullying, harassment, and intimidation policy every four years. This would mean defining behaviors that constitute bullying, harassment, and intimidation. Schools would also be required to post all suspension, expulsion, and locker search policies on school district websites.  The language in this bill is largely permissive which means that these are guidelines and not mandates.  The bill's intent is to support students and families with clear communication around the topic of bullying and support students safety at school.  It recently passed in the statehouse and will now move to the Senate.

On the Senate Side, there is Senate Bill (SB) 246 which is centered around ending suspensions for students in grades PreK-3. Sponsored by Senator Peggy Lehner (District 6), the bill would prohibit the suspension of preK-3 students who commit minor offenses. This bill supports efforts being made across the nation to reduce the number of suspensions and to find alternative ways to support student behavior that keep kids in school.  The implementation of this legislation would be delayed until the 2021 school year to best support districts with regards to preparing staff and schools with the training needed to support these changes. 

Under this bill, suspended students must be allowed to complete missed assignments. The bill would also require in-school suspensions to take place in a supervised learning environment. SB 246 would also require school districts to implement a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) framework. This would mean the inclusion of PBIS training for all teacher preparation programs. 

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, CMSD, is supportive of SB 246. Strides have already been taken to reduce the number of suspensions within CMSD, while also helping students learn how to recognize and handle stress and emotions. CMSD's Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program promotes the use of planning centers instead of out of school suspensions. These centers provide students with a safe, well-managed environment which prevents the escalation of inappropriate behavior by addressing emotional issues before they become a crisis. Each school within CMSD houses a planning center or alternative space in which students can learn coping strategies for their emotions.

The Primary Election is Tuesday, May 8 and there will not be a lot of movement of either bill until after the election is over.  While these bills appear to work in opposite directions, there is time through the legislative process and advocacy efforts to make suitable changes and compromises to combine ideas in both bills to make schools a safer place for all students and staff.  

Photos are courtesy of Cleveland Metropolitan School District
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