In January of 2021, Senate Bill 68 Section 3301.0721 – Ohio Revised Code | Ohio Laws (Williams- Cleveland) of the 133rd General Assembly was signed into law by Ohio Governor DeWine. The law requires the State Board of Education to adopt model curriculum for high school students to be used in at least one course required for high school graduation on “proper” interactions with peace officers during traffic stops and other in-person encounters with peace officers. The model curriculum shall include information on the following:
- A person’s rights during an interaction with a peace officer.
- Proper actions for interacting with a peace officer.
- Which individuals are considered peace officers, and their duties and responsibilities.
- Laws regarding questioning and detention by peace officers, including any law requiring a person to present proof of identity to a peace officer, and the consequences for a person’s or officer’s failure to comply with those laws.
- Demonstrations and role-play activities in a classroom setting that allow students to understand how interactions between civilians and peace officers can and should unfold.
The law also allows school districts to modify the instruction in the model curriculum as appropriate for the district’s community. In modifying the instruction, the district shall solicit input from local law enforcement agencies, driver training schools, and the public.
SB 68 Curriculum on “Proper” Interactions with Peace Officers Implementation Process
The Ohio Department of Education convened a workgroup to develop the draft curriculum and an advisory group to provide feedback and suggestions about the proposed curriculum. The draft model curriculum can be viewed here Draft- Student Interactions with Peace Officers Model Curriculum (ohio.gov). The draft curriculum is open for public comment until April 4. OEA submitted comments regarding the curriculum. You can view OEA President Scott DiMauro’s letter here.
Once the public comment period is closed, the following is expected to occur:
- ODE will review all comments received and can make changes to the proposed curriculum;
- The SB 68 Advisory Group will meet on April 7th to discuss the public comments and to provide feedback and suggestions;
- The draft model curriculum, including public comments and any revisions, is expected to be introduced to the Teaching, Learning, and Leading Committee of the State Board of Education at the April meeting;
- A proposed timeline for committee approval and full State Board of Education approval may be introduced during that committee meeting;
- This curriculum will be a requirement of graduation for students who enter high school for the first time in the Fall of 2022.
As educators, your voice and advocacy is important. We urge you to read the proposed curriculum thoroughly and to share your thoughts about the proposed content and focus that is presented. Comments can be provided through an ODE survey found here: Student Interactions with Peace Officers Model CurriculumPublic Comment Form Survey (surveymonkey.com) If you submit after the comment period has ended on April 4, 2022, please submit your comments to Justin Leach at Justin.Leach@education.ohio.gov. Please consider also sharing comments with your State Board of Education (SBOE) representative. Contact information is found at https://education.ohio.gov/State-Board/State-Board-Members
To assist with the writing of your comments and your State Board of Education representative, OEA suggests the following talking points:
- The convening of a workgroup to support the curriculum development and an advisory group to provide feedback that included educators was important and appreciated as teachers will need to implement this curriculum.
- The inclusion of the following language, “This content can be sensitive and sometimes emotional for students,” with respect to the required role-play and demonstration portions of the model curriculum is appreciated. As Ohio has adopted a state strategic plan for education that includes attending to the social and emotional health and well-being of students, it is important that this language remain.
- This curriculum is for high school students and should focus on their rights first, before focusing on the responsibilities and rights of peace officers. Many of our students may have already had or witnessed negative experiences with peace officers. A re-ordering of the curriculum to align with the requirements of the law would help students to understand that they have certain constitutional rights when they encounter peace officers.
- The emphasis on role-playing within this draft model curriculum is a significant concern when considering the emotional development of high school students. The mental health of students could be adversely affected, particularly students of color, who may experience triggering responses based upon past experiences with peace officers. Role plays should be de-emphasized and case studies and professionally developed videos should be recommended as a best practice.
- Opt-out language for parents and students should be included in the curriculum for those families that do not wish for their children to participate in anything that could adversely affect their mental health and well-being.