Ohio Schools Increase Spending on Safety

Michael D. Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer

OHIO: The death of a 6-year-old boy in a Lebanon elementary school six years ago has led to one of Ohio’s most sweeping laws on school safety and has forced many local districts to spend tens of thousands of dollars for upgrades and uncounted hours on inspections and paperwork. “Jarod’s Law” was named after Jarod Bennett, who was crushed under a folded cafeteria table in 2003 at Louisa Wright Elementary. The law, which took effect a year ago, calls for more frequent and thorough safety inspections and changes in how schools all over Ohio operate.

The law has forced school districts to buy lockable cabinets for potentially dangerous school supplies, to repair bleachers, to install eye-wash stations, to conduct radon testing and more. Costs vary from building to building, and some of the more expensive fixes, such as roof and ventilation system repairs, can be done over a period of years. Besides annual inspections conducted by local boards of health, Jarod’s Law requires schools to make those inspection reports public and to create plans detailing how problems detected by the inspections will be fixed. Jarod’s Law regulates items ranging from lighting levels in the hallways to the type of thermometers and paint allowed in classrooms.

Changes to comply with Jarod’s Law have been significant for the Ross Schools in Butler County, but worthwhile. “Total expense equals $45,000, but student safety is priceless,” said Todd Yohey, Ross superintendent. In Loveland, officials say they have spent $48,466 to comply with the law, including $8,802 for radon testing, $2,500 for eye-wash stations in all science labs, and $5,600 for new cabinets to store flammable and combustible items. At the Winton Woods schools, officials have spent about $20,000 to remove old playground equipment and install new, fire-resistant cabinets in some classrooms. The Forest Hills schools have spent $15,000 on additional floor mats and $5,000 for safer tile under drinking fountains. Clermont County’s Milford Schools have spent about $17,500 so far on changes including new ventilation in copier rooms and a new bathroom at the Milford Preschool Extended Day Program. Though the Kings Local School District has paid about $50,000 to comply with Jarod’s Law, the real cost is in manpower. “We spend about 100 hours a month on compliance,” Superintendent Valerie Browning said. In the Fairfield Schools, officials have spent about $15,000 on entry area floor mats, eye-wash stations in science labs and nurses’ offices, locking cabinets, playground mulch and other items.