Bills Aiming To Protect Children Pass In The Oklahoma Senate

State Senators passed a handful of bills aimed at keeping Oklahoma children safe.

Tuesday, March 12th 2024, 6:22 pm



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Lawmakers are working long hours at the capitol this week, as they near the halfway point of the legislative session. Between the state House and Senate, almost 200 bills were on Tuesday’s agenda.

Starting in the Senate, lawmakers passed a handful of bills aimed at keeping Oklahoma children safe.

Senate bill 615 would raise the age of consent from 16 to 18.

“It is so that we can give kids two more years of protection from these predators,” said Sen. Warren Hamilton, (R-McCurtain).

Senate Bill 1198 would require school training on sex trafficking and exploitation prevention. The author, Sen. Michael Bergstrom, says it would still provide local control, allowing local districts to decide what that curriculum looks like.

“I truly believe that this is something we need to do to help our kids understand the dangers and be able to protect themselves,” said Sen. Bergstrom.

Democrats criticize the bill, saying the training won't cover the full scope of sexual education.

“Kids are gonna be really confused if we only teach them about dangers and the bad stuff and strangers lurking around the corner,” said Sen. Julia Kirt (D-Oklahoma City). “Really kids need to understand their own bodies, their own consent, their own relationships and be empowered by that.”

Also being criticized by Senate democrats, was a bill written by Senator Julie Daniels that would prohibit DHS from requiring adoptive or foster parents to support sexual orientation or gender identity that conflicts with the parents religious or moral beliefs. 

“With the hundreds of children needing placement in Oklahoma, we do not want to put up an artificial barrier to serve in these capacities simply because they hold strict religious or moral beliefs,” said Sen. Daniels (R-Bartlesville). 

Kirt says the measure doesn’t have protections for Oklahoma children, because it allows DHS to give personal information regarding sexual orientation or gender identity to prospective foster or adoptive parents. 

“I'm concerned that this measure is short sighted and looks only at the short-term when we need to for kids to be looking at that long-term affirming household,” said Sen. Kirt.

The bill would allow DHS to look at the beliefs of the parents and child before determining placement.

“We're going to protect the interest of the individual child but we're going to make as many children while in terms of a placement with a loving adoptive or foster parent as we possibly can,” said Sen. Daniels.

Over in the state House, Rep. Cynthia Roe has written a bill to provide menstrual products in Oklahoma schools at no cost. Rep. Roe says this will lift a huge burden for students who can’t afford to buy these items. 

“Any of you all in here that have wives, daughters that have a monthly menstrual cycle know how expensive this can be. We have a lot of students missing school because they can't afford to buy the products that they need for that time of the month,” said Rep. Roe (R-Lindsay).

House Bill 3329 would require public and charter schools with 6th through 12th grades to provide free menstrual products in all bathrooms along with neutral sites like a nurse’s office or administration office. 

The bill had some pushback though, with 35 representatives voting against the measure. It’s expected to cost around $800,000 and would be administered by the State Department of Education. 

One opponent of the bill called the measure an “unnecessary growth of government,” saying it didn’t make sense to spend additional taxpayer dollars on items she says are already given in many schools.

Others also argue that the products will be available to all female students and may not get to those who can’t afford them. 

Rep Roe says one in four female students in Oklahoma can’t afford these products, causing many of them to miss school. She’s hoping this will help lift the burden so students can be focused solely on education.

The bill passed off the house floor Tuesday with a vote of 55 to 35 and will now move to the Senate for consideration.

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