New Ohio law plans to make hitting a crime

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This week, more schools in Ohio witnessed beatings. Police say swatting is when someone makes a fake call to law enforcement, which causes a huge backlash.

The recent incidents, which occurred at three Cincinnati public schools, not only ties up public safety resources but also has families, students and school officials on edge.

State Representative Kevin Miller knows firsthand the impact of swatting situations. In 2014, he was the Granville Post Commander for the Ohio State Highway Patrol and received a call about an active shooter situation at Denison University.

what you need to know

  • Several school districts in Ohio have recently experienced batting attempts
  • Swatting is when someone mistakenly calls law enforcement and triggers a big response
  • House Bill 462 would make hitting a criminal offense
  • Some people believe that the bill would not be necessary

“There was a threat called in,” Miller said. “The statement that someone came to the university with an assault weapon to shoot the university.”

He and his soldiers immediately went into action. They also dispatched the Sheriff’s Office and the Granville Police Department.

“I rush to Denison University and stow rifles in the back of the SUV to arm my soldiers there who will be on guard at the university’s entrances, confident that they are dealing with someone,” he said.

It turned out to be a swatting situation. Those found guilty of hitting are usually charged with a misdemeanor under Ohio law. However, it can be a more serious offense if it involves a bomb threat or causes more than $5,000 in economic damage.

“When you look at the severity of this situation and like I said, the things that can happen, the things that can go wrong, an offense just isn’t appropriate,” Miller said. “It has to be at the criminal level to deter that kind of behavior.”

That’s what Miller and other lawmakers say motivated House Bill 462. If passed, a person found guilty of hitting would be charged with a felony and would have to pay compensation to law enforcement.

But not everyone believes that this bill is necessary.

“Laws like House Bill 462 are one of the reasons our penal code has become so voluminous and overly complex,” said Niki Clum.

Clum is with the Ohio Public Defenders Office and announced her opposition to the bill during a House Criminal Justice Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Clum said she felt it would only complicate things.

“The behavior that this bill seeks to address is already illegal and, in most cases, already a crime,” she said. “A slight change in wording and the introduction of new offenses creates an unnavigable penal code.”

Miller has had several Ohio House hearings on the bill. He hopes it will pass during the lame duck session.

“People just don’t understand how serious this is,” Miller said. “And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to demonstrate to people that we will prevent this behavior, we will provide an appropriate level of punishment if you do so, and we will simply say that hitting is unacceptable in Ohio.