Johnstown Independent

Tiberi: Let off-duty officers substitute in classrooms

Congressman will sponsor bill to allow police to serve as subs


Congressman Pat Tiberi chose Reynoldsburg High School as the venue to announce his sponsorship of a bill that encourages armed, off-duty police officers to serve as substitute teachers in Ohio classrooms.

The Republican, who represents Ohio's 12th District in the U.S. House, said the option could "better protect children by providing highly trained armed officials to be in the school at any given time."

Tiberi talked about his proposed bill at an assembly Friday, Jan. 25, at the Reynoldsburg High School Summit campus.

"My job is to listen to constituents," he said. "It was a constituent, a Columbus police officer, who suggested police officers might want to supplement their income with special-duty assignments in the classroom.

"This bill would allow officers to act as substitute teachers, and the income they receive from substitute teaching would be exempt from federal taxation," Tiberi said.

Tiberi said encouraging off-duty law enforcement officials "to assist in educating our students, within the confines of state substitute teaching requirements, provides a deterrent to a possible violent attack."

He said the program would be similar to the air marshals program, which may provide an armed air marshal on commercial flights.

"This would not be the be-all, end-all answer for school safety, but it would be another tool for communities to utilize and could be a supplement to the school resource officer program," Tiberi said.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said school safety "is the one thing that keeps me up at night.

"I want to make sure our schools are safe for our staff members and for our students," he said. "This is a topic important to all of us. I was a school principal on April 20, 1999, when Columbine took place. Since that event, things have changed tremendously for all of us."

He said the district received federal money to hire school resource officers in 1999 and has had school resource officers at the high schools since that year.

"The safety of our children is not just a school cause; it is a community cause and a national cause," he said. "I appreciate Congressman Tiberi's proposal because it could be another tool for the safety of our students and staff and for the peace of mind of our families."

Dackin said he recently talked to a retired deputy sheriff, who asked if he might consider having more off-duty officers in the schools.

"We value the role of our school resource officers and I see this new proposal as an opportunity to expand our program," he said. "Our approach to school safety is to make sure every one of our students is engaged in learning and has a good relationship with teachers and staff.

"If we learned only one thing from Columbine, it was that students must feel engaged with our teachers and in our classrooms."

Dackin said the district works closely with the Reynoldsburg Police Department on safety and crisis plans and would like to see more police officers in the schools, taking to students and forming good relationships with them.

Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud and several members of the Reynoldsburg school board attended the presentation.