House Bill (HB) 359, Ohio’s new Safe at Home program, became effective yesterday, Sept. 8. The HB 359 bill analysis is available here. The program creates a system of address confidentiality implemented through the secretary of state’s (SOS) office. The new provisions appear in Ohio Revised Code (RC) sections 111.41, 111.42, 111.43 and 111.46.
The program provides that adults, when changing residence, can apply to SOS to have their address kept confidential if they fear for their safety or the safety of a household member when the applicant or household member is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery. Applications must be submitted with the help of a qualified application assistant, and SOS has been charged with creating rules to facilitate administration of the program. SOS has created a fact sheet for advocates, which includes more information on the program and its requirements.
Once an application is approved, SOS must designate the participant an address for mail receipt. Program participants can request that school districts use the designated address, and when such a request is made districts are required to do so. The new provisions also require that information on the program application, including the participant’s residence and school (among other items), be kept confidential, and such information is not public record.
Unfortunately, the new provisions do not contemplate school districts and their need to verify student addresses for residency or other attendance related purposes. OSBA currently is working on potential language or other options to provide schools the ability to appropriately verify residency in light of the new provisions, and will keep districts updated on any new developments.