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Marathon Ohio legislative session leads to passage of education bills

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(The Center Square) – Ohio college and university campuses could soon have to track incidents of hate and adopt and enforce policies to stop racial, religious, and ethnic harassment.

The Campus Act passed the House and Senate early Thursday morning following a marathon session before lawmakers take off on summer break. It now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine, who is expected to sign it.

“The Campus Act is essential for fostering a safe, inclusive, and respectful educational environment,” Rep. Justin Pizzulli, R-Scioto County, said during his floor speech. “This bill not only safeguards students but also promotes a campus culture grounded in respect and understanding, essential for the academic and personal growth of every student.”

The act does several things, including:

• Requires colleges and universities to adopt and enforce policies to combat racial, religious and ethnic harassment and intimidation, including comprehensive staff training.

• Requires colleges and universities to establish a procedure for investigating student complaints and allegations of racial, religious, or ethnic harassment or intimidation. The procedure must include an option for students to submit complaints anonymously.

• Requires colleges and universities to adopt and publicize on their website policies on time, place or manner restrictions on their students’ expressive activities.

• Requires the chancellor of higher education to establish a task force on combating antisemitism and other forms of racial, religious, and ethnic bias, harassment and intimidation at colleges and universities.

• Requires universities to track hate incident metrics and submit an annual report on all harassment and intimidation incidents to the chancellor.

• Establishes three one-time grant programs to ensure student safety at events – the Campus Security Support Program, the Campus Student Safety Grant Program, and the Campus Community Grant Program.

A bill was also passed to allow public school students to study any religion during school hours. Districts currently have the option to create release time for students, but the new bill requires it.

Also, a bill to require school bathrooms and locker rooms passed in the House early Thursday morning after it was added as an amendment to another bill to revise the state’s College Credit Plus Program. The bill goes back to the Senate, but lawmakers are on recess until likely after the November election.

A bill, the Higher Education Enhancement Act, which would outlaw diversity, equity, and inclusion training at Ohio colleges and universities, failed to pass.

Lawmakers could take up those bills again when they return to work later this year.

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