Graduation Requirements (Am. Sub. H.B. 49, Section 733.67)
In the 2018-2019 budget bill, the legislature offered two “alternative” pathways for the class of 2018 to graduate: a main alternative pathway, and a career-technical alternative pathway. HB 491 extends the alternative graduation pathways for the classes of 2019 and 2020. The main alternative pathway treats each class similarly except for attendance and GPA requirements. The second pathway (the career-technical pathway) applies equally to the classes of 2019 and 2020. It is important that districts review the specific rules for each class and each pathway to make sure students remain eligible to graduate.
HB 491 also requires the Department of Education to make recommendations for new permanent graduation requirements and present those requirements to the legislature by April 1, 2019.
Suspensions and Board Policy (R.C. 3313.66)
HB 491 requires schools to adopt a policy establishing parameters for students completing any assignments missed because of a suspension. The policy must provide the student with the opportunity to both complete missed assignments and receive at least partial credit for a completed assignment. While the policy can permit grade reductions on account of the suspension, it must prohibit issuing a failing grade based solely on the student’s suspension. Boards of education should adopt such a policy before HB 491’s effective date.
Treasurer Liability (R.C. 3313.25, 3313.31, 3319.36)
Breathe a sigh of relief, Treasurers. HB 491 provides that treasurers may only be held liable for a loss of public funds when that loss results from “the treasurer’s negligence or other wrongful act.” Historically, the Ohio Supreme Court has held public officials strictly liable for loss or misuse of public money under their control—in other words, regardless of fault or intent. HB 491 changes that standard. Now, if treasurers perform all their official duties with “reasonable care,” they are not liable for loss unless they otherwise acted negligently or wrongfully.
HB 491 also establishes a new procedure for payment for teacher services. HB 491 makes the payment contingent on a written statement from the district or ESC superintendent (or designee) confirming that the teacher has filed the required reports and license to the superintendent as required by law. Under the old procedure, the teacher filed the written statement. Treasurers and superintendents who follow the new procedure are not liable for a resulting loss of public funds if the loss was not a due to their own negligence or wrongful act.
SRO Training (R.C. 3319.951)
HB 491 clarifies prior law regarding School Resource Officer (“SRO”) training. Prior law provided that such training could be received from “a peace officer certified to conduct” such a course. R.C. 3319.951 now provides that SROs may obtain their specialized training from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. Districts are advised to review any memoranda of understanding they may have with SROs to clarify the acceptability of receiving training pursuant to this new option.
Counselor Education and Substitute Licensing for Pupil Services Personnel (R.C. 3319.210)
Finally, HB 491 helps schools reduce red tape and more easily secure licensed professionals as substitutes—specifically, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, physical and occupational therapy assistants, and social workers. These professionals will be eligible for substitute licenses without any additional qualifications beyond meeting their occupational licensing requirements and completing a criminal records check.
HB 491 impacts students, current employees, prospective employees, and some of the daily operations of school districts. Districts should discuss the changes with their legal counsel to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place before the law becomes effective in March.