Fallin signs bill requiring rape, sexual assault prevention programs

Gov. Mary Fallin signs House Bill 1684, which amends the Safe School Committee legislation to include the implementation of rape and sexual assault prevention programs for students and staff in Oklahoma schools. Shown at far left is Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, and at far right is Rep. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill requiring school districts to develop rape and sexual assault prevention programs for students and staff in Oklahoma schools has been signed into law.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed House Bill 1684, which amends the Safe School Committee legislation to include “adding duty to develop a rape or sexual assault response program for students and school staff, providing an effective date and declaring an emergency.”

Fallin was joined by state Rep. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman, who authored and introduced the bill in January, as well as members of the members of Yes All Daughters, including Stacey Wright and former Norman High School Senior and founder Danielle Brown.

Griffith, a Registered Nurse, explained how caring for her first rape victim showed her the importance of providing assistance to victims of traumatic assaults, while handling their own emotional reposes to the situation. 

“I had to move (the victim) up to a floor,” Griffith said. "This was prior to SANE nursing. I was not trained in the emotional aspects in my own feelings in how to deal with an individual who had been violently assaulted and how I had to deal with my own emotions.”

The bill was crafted in response to allegations that former Norman High School student Tristen Kole Killman-Hardin raped three classmates, who were bullied by several otter students at the school. No charges have been filed yet against Killman-Hardin in the other two alleged sexual assault incidents. Two of the incidents happened off campus and one reportedly took place at the school.

Last fall, after learning from one of the alleged victims about what had occurred, Brown approached her aunt, Stacey Wright, a member of a local feminist knitting group, to bring awareness to the rape incidents and advocate for the alleged victims. Brown said she wanted to address the manner in which school administrators had handled the situation when establishing #YesAllDaughters.

Within weeks, its campaign to support the alleged victims through a student led protest went viral on social media and made headlines around the world. More than 500 students walked out of the school during the protest.

Wright, who was present at the signing, said she hopes the newly amended law will equip educators with the training and resources needed to help victims in schools.

“The best method for prevention is education,” Wright said. “This is such a huge problem we have to combat.”

“It touched so many people that I think we were really at a tipping point and talking aloud about something awful — and it happens all the time,” Wright said, citing statistics about the prevalence of rape and sexual assault. “There’s almost nobody that this hasn’t touched — whether they’ve known somebody who has been a victim themselves or they’ve known a victim themselves."

In response to the protest, Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano announced the implementation a comprehensive, research-based sexual assault curriculum for both high schools. In April, two student advocacy coordinators were hired to support student victims of sexual assault and harassment at both Norman high schools. 

The Task Force is expected to present its recommendations to Siano, which is expected to include recommendations on curriculum and strengthening policies to address the issues.

“Norman public schools has been at the forefront, working with their own programs,” Griffith said. “They are coming up with ... innovations and we’re already seeing change in the Norman Schools system. I’m excited.”

Yes All Daughters has since continued to advocate for sexual assault victims. The student-led organization has launched a change.org petition aimed at passing the Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015. The law would require schools across the nation to "create curriculum that teaches kids about healthy relationships, how to spot abusive behavior and promotes understanding of consent and sexual assault."

The bill currently sits in the U.S. Senate. The online petition has been signed by more than 87,000 supporters.

“It’s been an incredible seven months,” Wright said. “I can’t believe all of this is has happened so quickly. It’s just absolutely unbelievable.”

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