Republican state legislators in Ohio want to require freshmen in public and private high schools to take a self-defense class in order to graduate, according to a new bill introduced Tuesday, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
If passed, the Student Protection Act would go into effect in the 2023-24 school year. The teaching, as part of health class, would be conducted by a school resource officer or a certified self-defense instructor, according to the bill.
The Republicans who introduced the bill, Rep. Tom Young of Washington Township and Rep. Andrea White of Kettering, did not mention school shootings in a press release. The bill itself does not mention school shootings, either. “Young women between the ages of 16-19 are the most vulnerable to be sexually assaulted,” Young said in the statement. “This training will also provide opportunity for development of relationships between students and their local law enforcement and school resource officers.”
White had similar comments. “Physical, emotional or sexual abuse and assault are never okay. These behaviors should never be tolerated or go unreported,” she said. “Reinforcing this message with our young people, while equipping them with defensive tactics and proactive strategies will help them protect themselves and avoid dangerous situations.”
Mass shootings were not invoked, but the bill’s introduction comes a week after a shooter killed 21 people, including 19 young children, at an elementary school in Uvalde. Republicans have since proposed a number of solutions they believe will make students safer — virtually none of which involve gun reform. Potential measures have included “hardening” schools and arming teachers. “You’re going to have to do more at the school,” State Attorney General Ken Paxton said on the day of the massacre, the response to which was mismanaged by law enforcement. “You’re going to have to have more people trained to react.”
Lawmakers in the Ohio state Senate have been considering a bill that would lowering the number of training hours teachers must complete in order to be armed, and it was reported on Tuesday that they are now expected to vote on it. Under current state law, about 728 hours are required, but House Bill 99 would scale this all the way down to just 20.
State Rep. Thomas Hall, in introducing the bill last year, said that “we simply give local control to the school boards and local governing bodies to decide what amount of training is necessary,” according to the Dispatch. H.B. 99 passed the Ohio House last November and is now up for amendments in the Senate. Republicans control both chambers of the Ohio legislature.