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Government and Politics

Bill allows expulsion of students who have not committed crimes
A new bill passed by the Ohio House allows schools to expel students who are deemed threats by the administration, even if they have not committed a crime.

Karen Kasler
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Lawmakers in the Ohio House have approved a new way for superintendents to deal with students they fear are a threat to others, to school staff or to the district.

But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, the bill didn’t pass without a fight.
LISTEN: New bill would allow expulsion of "threatening" students

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Current law allows for the expulsion of students who have committed crimes against other students or school staffers. The new bill gives a superintendent the authority to expel a student who committed no crime, but is thought to be a threat, including a student told someone he planned to hurt others.

Republican Bill Hayes of Granville near Newark said the bill was about school safety, and that he hopes its provisions are never needed. 

“Because if they are, you’re really in a bad state of affairs," Hayes said. "But if it’s necessary, if you do have a situation where you have imminent and severe endangerment of your school community, we think it’s time to get something that lets the superintendents deal with that.”

A law that's not needed?
But several Democrats say current law is sufficient in dealing with students who pose real, serious threats. Democrat Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati noted that the first expulsion in the bill is for 180 days – an entire school year – and a superintendent can extend that by 90 days, for as long as he or she feels is necessary. 

“A kid can be expelled under this bill forever," Driehaus said. "Never go back to school if that’s the determination of the superintendent. So to call this not zero tolerance, this is my view is zero tolerance.”

The bill does require a district to come up with a plan to continue the student’s education during the expulsion. Democrats also brought up testimony offered in committee by doctors who said that expulsion can actually make a student’s behavior and overall situation worse, and noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Defense Fund and other groups oppose the bill.  

Targeting some or protecting all?
“Supporting this legislation would likely contribute to an expelling youth further, falling behind academically, further acting out from embarrassment and frustration on being unable to catch up in the classroom, and eventually being involved with the juvenile justice system as a young adult entering the penal system,” says Roland Winburn is from Dayton.

Democrats also said the bill could hurt poor children and students of color more than other kids. But Republican Lou Terhar of Cincinnati, whose wife is the president of the state school board, says all students need to be protected. 

“I know how important it is for education, and I ask you to consider before you vote all the other students in that school and their rights and what they need and where they’re going to try to go with their education,” Terhar said.

Democrats advocated for early intervention and school-training programs. But the expulsion bill won out, with the House voting overwhelmingly in favor of it. It now moves on to the Senate.

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