The Ohio House okayed a bill that allows school superintendents to extend the expulsion of students who threaten the safety of students or staff at a school.
"It's all about local control, it's permissive, but it does indeed empower our superintendents to help ensure the health and safety on our school grounds," said Rep. Jay Hottinger, a Republican from Newark.
The legislation also requires that the superintendent create a plan for the continued education of the expelled student within five days of the expulsion.
"They need to continue to be educated. They need to have an assessment, they need to have help before we let them back into the system," he said.
Under the bill, the expulsion cannot last more than 180 days and must only be instituted if a student poses an "imminent and severe endangerment to the health and safety of other students or school employees." It also allows a superintendent to extend the expulsion by 90 days if they feel it is warranted. School leaders would have to first draw up criteria for any extension.
"Throwing them off into the community for 180 days, where in the hell do you think they're going to end up? They're going to end up in our prisons. They're going to end up costing us even more," said Rep. Robert Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat.
Opponents argue that the bill could be more harmful to already troubled children.
"A kid can be expelled under this bill forever. Never get back to school, if that's the determination of the superintendent," said Rep. Denise Driehaus, a Democrat from Cincinnati.
Jefferson Democrat John Patterson said he was prepared to vote against the bill, but changed his mind.
"It's not where we need to be. I don't like taking kids out of school, but I have to make sure that those schools are safe first," he said.
The Ohio Senate will now take the bill into consideration.