Ohio's SAFE Act Puts More Children on the Path for Success
The newly passed legislation will work to reduce the number of children expelled from early education
By E. Wayne Risner
As Ashland County Sheriff, I know high-quality early education can create safer communities by setting children on the right path in life.
Studies show the early years are a crucial time for brain development when children gain many of the tools and skills they will use to lead successful lives. They also show that kids who receive high-quality early learning are more likely to show up to kindergarten ready to succeed – and that kids who are prepared at the start of school are more likely to do well, graduate on time, and avoid engaging in later crime.
But kids who face suspension and expulsion in the early years of school lose out on critical time in the classroom that is spent providing them with those tools.
Fortunately, help is on the way. Ohio legislators recently passed the SAFE Act which significantly reduces suspensions and expulsions of children in pre-K to third grade and ensures teachers will have necessary resources to support children’s social and emotional development.
According to state data, the resources and guidelines provided under the SAFE Act would eliminate about 93 percent of suspensions or expulsions.
Sheriff E. Wayne Risner, Ashland County
That way, if a child has challenging behavior, he or she can be kept in school instead of sent home. And, in the rare cases in which a child does need to be removed from school, principals would be required to consult with a mental health professional before they issue an out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
Statewide, more than 34,000 children were suspended out-of-school or expelled during the 2016-2017 school year. But, according to state data, the resources and guidelines provided under the SAFE Act would have eliminated about 93 percent of those suspensions or expulsions. With this legislation in place, the kids who need quality learning may now be kept in school, and teachers will receive the tools they needed to address students’ challenging behaviors.
Law enforcement leaders care about reducing suspension and expulsion because research shows that children who exhibit challenging behaviors are likely to experience later behavior problems and academic troubles. These are key indicators that a child could drop out and subsequently become involved in crime. As such, it’s the children who are most at risk for suspension and expulsion that can chiefly benefit from time in early education environments.
Thank you to our lawmakers who passed the SAFE Act, particularly co-sponsors Senator Peggy Lehner, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and Senator Gayle Manning. And thank you to Senate President Larry Obhof for his leadership on this issue to make sure that kids from pre-K to third grade can stay in the classroom, and that our teachers have what they need to help students gain the skills they need to succeed in life.