The 2019 Oklahoma Legislative Session is now less than one month from convening and conducting official business. We at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) are anxious to see the long list of fresh ideas submitted by lawmakers. We have been monitoring much of the progress and feel there are great opportunities ahead with these new legislators and a new governor.
Three subjects of interest that we are working on are:
- Trauma Informed Care and the Reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences: In 2018, we worked with lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin to create the Trauma Informed Care Task Force, which looks at ways to help reduce the impact of traumatic experiences suffered by children. In the coming year, this task force will be fully operational and be comprised of six additional lawmakers and two appointees from Gov. Kevin Stitt. The inclusion of lawmakers is especially important, as we hope the taskforce provides these members with policy suggestions that can directly influence legislation. The task force will begin work in February and will hold regular gatherings to explore why Oklahoma has such a large number of children suffering toxic long-term trauma and what can be done to reduce that harmful phenomenon.
- School Suspensions: As there was in 2018, we expect another healthy discussion regarding school suspensions as an appropriate disciplinary measure. Our position is that, while punishing children for disruptive behavior is an important part of the learning process, banishing a student from the classroom for days or even weeks can have an obviously counter-productive effect. Children serving lengthy suspensions often fall behind in their classwork. Meanwhile, the cause of bad or disruptive behavior – which is often rooted in difficult circumstances at home – goes unaddressed. For that reason, OICA will again oppose legislation making it easier to suspend children from school or that lowers the age for permissible suspensions (one lawmaker is reportedly working to allow suspensions of preschool students). Instead, we will work to support policies that encourage intervention and counseling prior to any suspension.
- Child-Endangerment and “Failure to Protect” Laws: It should go without saying that OICA believes that any situation in which an adult is knowingly endangering a child is unacceptable. With that said, OICA is awaiting language regarding a potential law that will impact how the court will treat an adult who allows a child to be endangered and the actual perpetrator of the harm done. We do not want to see lopsided justice where a child-abuser receives a lesser sentence than an adult who fails to report that abuse. At the same time, we also want to ensure that justice for children is never overlooked and their rights are always respected. We hope these laws are reviewed and, moving forward, administered properly.
OICA will be involved and report on these issues to you as they come forward. If you would like to receive our weekly newsletter or action alerts please sign up at oica.org to stay informed.