Last week, the Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio (JJC) -- an NJJN member -- and its state partners scored a legislative victory as HB 410, a bill the JJC and its partners had championed to reform the state’s approach to school discipline and truancy, passed both houses of the Ohio legislature with strong bipartisan support. The bill now goes to Governor Kasich’s desk for signature.
Currently, Ohio law does not prioritize keeping students who are truant engaged in school. State law requires that school discipline policies take a zero-tolerance approach to “excessive” truancy, which has resulted in thousands of Ohio students being suspended or expelled for truancy every year (6,000 in school year 2013-4). Ohio law also does not require schools to determine why students are truant or to take any steps to help students attend school before they refer students to juvenile court – an expensive and ineffective approach for youth at low risk of committing new offenses. Finally, students who have missed a certain number of days can currently be charged with a delinquency offense, in violation of federal law.
In addition, Ohio law requires all school districts to implement a zero-tolerance discipline policy, which contributes to about 200,000 students being suspended or expelled every year, the majority for nonviolent behavior. Worse, youth of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected.
HB 410 seeks to reengage thousands of students who miss school and get them on the path to success. Under the new law, the court system will be a last resort – not a first response -- for dealing with students who miss school. Furthermore, the Ohio State Board of Education must create a model school discipline policy before the next school year that emphasizes prevention and alternatives to out-of-school suspension or expulsion. Erin Davies, JJC’s Executive Director, said, “The passage of HB 410 shows broad, bipartisan support for positive policies for Ohio kids and is a major step forward to keep Ohio’s students engaged in school and on a path to success.”
For More Information
>> Keeping Students In School: Ohio’s School Discipline and Truancy Laws (November 2015) – two-page fact sheet from the JJC of Ohio.
>> Legislative Summary: HB 410 (December 2016).