NORMAN — Last year, House Bill 2734, also known as Lauren’s Law, passed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives before dying in the Senate.
This session, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), ran another version of his bill, HB 1007, which would give public schools the option to teach age-appropriate consent and healthy relationship education. The bill is named after Lauren Atkins, a former Norman High Student who shared her story of sexual assault publicly in 2017.
It failed to pass the House late Wednesday night with 39 “yeas” and 56 “nays.” It was a frustrating moment for Rosecrants — who said he’d worked throughout the session to provide information on the bill to other representatives and garner support — and for Stacey Wright of Yes All Daughters. Wright worked with Rosecrants on crafting Lauren’s Law.
“It was a long night,” she said. “I was [at the Capitol] with Lauren Atkins, and it was very emotional. Altogether crushing. It was unbelievable that those lawmakers who could look up and see this young woman who has survived so much, and myself as a survivor, and argue over semantics. They acted like sexual assault doesn’t impact people’s lives.”
Rosecrants said he believed the bill had enough support when it went for a vote to the floor, but that it “wilted” after legislators began complaining that the bill’s inclusion of the word “culture” meant the bill could be used to promote sex education. Rosecrants has repeatedly affirmed the legislation has nothing to do with sex ed. He added the lack of a parental opt-out for the education, which he amended the bill to include, lost it support.
“The greatest frustration comes from the relationships I made across the aisle, understanding where other sides were coming from, finding consensus, and then just watching them wilt under lies,” he said. “I wouldn’t have brought it to the floor without bipartisan support. Slowly but surely, the misinformation made its way through.”
The vote took place after 10 p.m. Wednesday night, and Wright said that within the hour she and Rosecrants were strategizing on how to move forward with the bill next session.
“We aren’t going to quit. This is such an important piece of legislation, and it should be a fundamental part of education for kids,” she said. “This type of education involves teaching kids healthy boundaries, conflict resolution, communication skills… these are skills we use every day of our lives.
“I can’t think of a better investment in our economy and the future of our country.”
Rosecrants said he got into politics to protect children by supporting education and legislation like Lauren’s Law, and he intends to continue educating other lawmakers on the bill and building consensus.
Legislators voted down HB 1007 the same day the House suspended its high school page program after a teenage girl said she was sexually assaulted by another page. The Associated Press is reporting the alleged assault took place at a hotel where students were staying with chaperones. The incident is under investigation by the Midwest City Police Department.
“It literally happened on their watch,” Wright said. “I’m curious to know if they knew about this while they were voting [Wednesday]. We’re trying to address issues we have in our culture that intersect with trauma: mental health, criminal justice, many of those traumas are rooted in sexual and domestic violence.”