Lawmakers seek to set standards for Ohio school resource officers

COLUMBUS (WYTV) – School resource officers are more common than they used to be but in Ohio, the potential for variance in skill sets and responsibilities is something lawmakers are seeking to address.

Currently, there is no statewide standard defining the skills and responsibilities SROs should have.

That may change, however, with House Bill 318 — a bi-partisan piece of legislation that seeks to lay those guidelines out and get everyone on the same page.

State representatives John Patterson and Sarah LaTourette are jointly sponsoring the bill. If it becomes law, it would require new SROs to undergo training in several areas, including, but not limited to:

  • Understanding the psychological and physiological characteristics for the ages of students assigned to their buildings
  • De-escalation techniques
  • How to be a positive role model
  • How to work with children that have special needs
  • How to spot drug use and eliminate it from the school

The training would be waived for all current SROs, as they would be grandfathered by the bill.

The legislation also provides local governments a great deal of flexibility.

Chardon Local School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Hanlon, Jr. discussed the need for such legislation.

“Transitioning to a public school setting still brings with it some unique challenges when you are working with children and you’re working with teachers and school administrators,” he said.

Chardon High School did not have an SRO in February 2012 when T.J. Lane shot three students to death and wounded two others. The school falls in both LaTourette’s and Patterson’s districts.

When the two lawmakers began looking into school resource officers, they found no statewide standards in place for them.

“[The bill is] all about safety. It’s a basic, human, fundamental need,” Patterson said.

Working with the School Resource Officers Association of Ohio and other law enforcement agencies, the lawmakers drafted a bill that goes before the House Education and Career Readiness Committee on Tuesday.

“We’ve been able to develop a template to define the duties of a school resource officer and the training that goes with that so that there would be a standard, a uniformity, here at the state level,” Patterson said.

How the mandate would be paid for has yet to be decided. Patterson said that could occur as the bill goes through the legislative process.

“This is an issue that is dear to all Ohioans,” Patterson said. “As such, all of us have a responsibility to reach that goal for the safety of our children.”

The committee hearing is at 4:00 p.m. at the Statehouse on Tuesday.