On March 24, 2021, House Bill 123 — the Safety and Violence Education Students (SAVE Students) Act — went into effect. The purpose of the act is to address mental health and youth violence amongst Ohio students in grades six through twelve. As a result, among other things, the act establishes an anonymous reporting program. The reporting program is important because victimizations, bullying, and other disorders such as drug and alcohol use are often not reported directly to school authorities, or even to parents and guardians because students do not want to be identified, do not want a friend or classmate in trouble, or do not know how or where to report these threats. Thus, the reporting programs will be a resource in the 2021-2022 school year for students, school staff, families, and law enforcement. The key provisions of the act's anonymous reporting system are summarized below:
Covered Schools. The act requires each local, city, exempted village, and joint vocational school district in the state of Ohio to adopt an anonymous reporting system.
Tip Line Providers. Schools must register with the free Safer Ohio School Tip Line operated by the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) or enter into an agreement with an anonymous reporting program (non-state vendor) of the school district's choosing by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. These tip lines allow students and adults to anonymously share information with school officials and law enforcement about threats to student safety whether that involves a threatened mass incident or harm to a single student.
Registration for Safer Ohio School Tip Line. Schools may register here. Schools will then receive an email from OhioSchoolSafetyCenter@dps.ohio.gov, confirming registration and any requests for promotional materials. Links to downloadable graphics will be provided for the schools' websites, emails, and internal school systems. Schools may use these graphics to help advertise the system to students and school staff. Any print materials requested go out on a monthly basis and there is no cost for these materials. Additional training resources are under development by the OSSC and will be shared when available.
Updating Contact Information for the Safer Ohio School Tip Line. Schools must keep their emergency contact sheet updated with the school building's emergency operations plan as well as any Ohio Educational Directory System contact information from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). These documents are used to identify the appropriate contacts — school resource officer, designated after-hours contact, administrator, etc. — depending on the situation.
Requirements for Non-State Vendors. The reporting program must:
- Operate twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week;
- Forward reported information to and coordinate with the appropriate school threat assessment teams and law enforcement and public safety agencies required under the school's emergency management plan developed under R.C. 5502.262;
- Be promoted in each district school to inform students about the reporting program and its reporting methods;
- Comply with R.C. 149.433 and 3319.321 as well as the "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974," 20 U.S.C. 1232g; and
- Annually disclose the number of anonymous reports made through the reporting program and the method by which they were received, disaggregated by the school to the OSSC and ODE on a form/method proscribed by these departments.
The OSSC and ODE have created the following data collection worksheet to assist schools with gathering this information throughout the school year using existing ODE data collection fields. Data must be submitted at the end of each school year when schools are completing the annual certification of their emergency management plan.
Certification of Non-State Vendors. Vendors must meet the above requirements but the OSSC will not be certifying companies and providers. Districts and schools will include which provider they have selected on their data collection worksheet and in their emergency operations plan documents. The OSSC will contact schools as needed if providers are identified that do not meet these standards.
Promoting the Act and Reporting Program. The OSSC encourages schools to personalize and share the following draft letter with students, staff, parents, and guardians to make them aware of these services. The letter can be put on the school's letterhead and easily sent out in an email or printed to send home with students.
Public Records. Importantly, any data collected by the Safer Ohio School Tip Line or an anonymous reporting program or reported to the ODE or Department of Public Safety under the act are security records and are not public records under R.C. 149.433.
With the recent start of the 2021-2022 school year, local, city, exempted village, and joint vocational school districts should ensure that they are in compliance with the SAVE Students Act. For questions regarding the OSSC's free services and requirements under the act, please email OhioSchoolSafetyCenter@dps.ohio.gov.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.