Senate Bill 297, introduced on March 21, 2016, would provide new penalties for students who make threats against a school, its facilities, or fellow students. A companion bill is pending in the House of Representatives (HB 498). The proposed amendments to Revised Code Sections 3313.66, 3313.661, and adoption of a new Section 3313.668, would authorize school boards to adopt policies that would allow a Superintendent to expel a student for up to 60 days if he/she “communicates a threat to kill or do physical harm to persons or property.” Any threat against a school board, its employees, or students would apply if directed toward persons, property owned or controlled by the board, on a school bus, at an extracurricular event, interscholastic competition, or at any other program or activity sponsored by the board or where the district is a participant. A threat could be communicated verbally, in person or in writing, via telephone, cellular telephone, computer, pager, personal communication device, or other electronic communication device.

A policy adopted under these amendments, if ultimately approved by the General Assembly and signed into law, would allow a board of education to require that the student, as a condition of reinstatement, undergo an assessment to determine whether he/she poses a continuing danger to himself/ herself, other students, or school employees. If the student refuses to undergo an assessment, the superintendent would be permitted to extend the expulsion for up to one calendar year. If, at the end of the expulsion period, the superintendent determines that the student demonstrates sufficient rehabilitation, he or she will be reinstated. An additional provision of the bill requires the district to develop a plan for the continued education of the student during the period of expulsion, which could include educational services on-line or in an alternative setting.

As part of the proposed legislation, a board of education or local law enforcement agency would be permitted to file a civil action in the appropriate court of common pleas to seek reimbursement for costs, from the student’s parent or guardian, based upon the student’s threat and expenses associated with a shut down or evaluation of school facilities. The bill does not prohibit law enforcement from also seeking criminal charges.

The Buckeye Association of School Administrators provided input to the provisions in the bill as it moved through the drafting process, and is reportedly supportive of the language, as introduced.