Each board of education is required by law to adopt a “school safety plan” for each building in the district. Recently, the laws have changed regarding the creation and submission of these plans. Changes to RC 3313.536 became effective last fall, and ODE’s accompanying administrative rule (OAC 3301-5-01) became effective in January. Changes include:
Name change. Previously, the law referred to these plans as “school safety plans.” The new laws change the name of the plans to “emergency management plans.”
More schools must adopt plans. Previously, plans were only required for city, exempted village and local school districts. The new law applies to community schools, STEM schools, college preparatory boarding schools, districts or schools operating career-technical programs, ESCs, pre-school and school-age child care programs licensed by ODE and any other facility that primarily provides educational services to children subject to ODE regulation.
More responsibility for administrators. Previously, school boards and governing authorities were required to develop, adopt, update and file the plans. Under the new law, the administrator must meet these requirements for each building under his or her control. “Administrator” is defined as the “superintendent, principal, chief administrative officer, or other person having supervisory authority” over the building.
The law threatens stiff penalties for an administrator’s failure to file, certify, update or properly prepare an emergency plan for one of his or her school buildings. Under the administrative rule, failure to comply with the new rule may result in discipline pursuant to the State Board’s authority to limit, suspend or revoke an educator’s license.
New plan requirements. Previously, the content and form of schools’ safety plans were subject to local control. Under the new law, each plan must be submitted on standardized forms developed by ODE and must include the following:
- An “emergency operations plan,” which is a protocol for addressing and responding to serious threats and emergency events, including an active shooter event, hostage situation, bomb threat, act of terrorism, and other emergency events that compromise the safety of students, employees or property. The protocol is also required to address five “mission areas” including: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.
- Remediation strategies for any building where documented safety programs have occurred.
- Procedures for notifying appropriate law enforcement personnel, calling upon specified emergency response personnel for assistance, informing parents of affected students, and taking other appropriate actions.
- A floor plan that is unique to each floor of the building.
- A site plan that includes all building property and surrounding property.
- An emergency contact information sheet.
In developing the plan, the administrator must involve community law enforcement and safety officials, parents or guardians of students who are assigned to the building, and teachers and non-teaching employees who are assigned to the building.
ODE has provided several guidance documents and resources designed to help districts comply with the new plan requirements, including a guide for developing high-quality school emergency operations plans, sample school safety plans, a guide for developing and submitting floor plans, and a sample emergency contact information sheet. The guidance is available online at https://saferschools.ohio.gov/content/school_safety_plans.
New filing requirements. Administrators must submit an electronic copy of the plan to ODE, pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board, not less than once every three years, whenever a major modification to the building requires changes in the procedures outlined in the plan, and whenever information on the emergency contact information sheet changes. The administrator must also file a copy with each law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the building and, upon request, with the local fire department, local EMS organization and county emergency management agency.
Annual certification. Prior to July 1 each year, the administrator must review the emergency management plan and certify to ODE that it is current and accurate.
Revisions. Anytime an administrator updates the emergency management plan, the administrator is required to file copies, not later than the tenth day after the revision is adopted, to ODE and to any entity that originally received a copy of the plan.
Annual emergency management test and drills. On an annual basis, administrators are required to schedule and conduct at least one drill, exercise, or activity designed to assess and evaluate a single procedural operation set forth in the emergency management plan that involves a coordination of efforts. The law requires administrators to grant access to law enforcement personnel and local entities that have requested copies of the plan to hold training sessions for responding to threats and emergency events affecting the building. This must be outside student instructional time and the administrator/designee must be present in the building. The administrator must provide advanced written notice of the test to any entity with which the administrator filed a copy of the plan, as well as ODE.
District should review ODE’s guidance and verify that their current plans comply with the new law. If you have questions about these new school safety and security requirements, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services.