For The Children Weekly Column

Cooperation Better than Conflict

PHOTO – OICA CEO Joe Dorman (left) is joined by state Rep. James Olsen, R-Roland, and moderator Reece Wetzel for a discussion on the bill that would end the practice of corporal punishment for some disabled students. The discussion was aired Friday, March 31, on OETA’s “Oklahoma News Report.”

April 3, 2023

OICA’s Weekly “For the Children” Column by CEO Joe Dorman


Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117


OKLAHOMA CITY – It is springtime, and the legislative session is moving forward reaching the halfway mark of the 2023 session.

The Oklahoma Legislature is embroiled in heated debates over substantial education policy, including tax credits and a potential pay raise for educators. 

In addition, lawmakers are discussing corporal punishment of students who fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  As I mentioned in last week’s column, the bill passed the House of Representatives on a vote to reconsider after failing first time it was considered.  The bill has moved to the Oklahoma Senate and has been assigned to their Education Committee for a possible hearing.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to debate one of the lawmakers who opposed the first version on a statewide newscast. Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, was against the bill, but after it was amended and representatives used a tactic to ensure it returns to them before going to the governor, Representative Olsen voted, “Yes.”

The conversation with Representative Olsen was broadcast on OETA’s Oklahoma News Report, which you can find at The discussion was a civil conversation in which we both pointed to data and Scripture to justify our positions. In addition, my points were backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies showing that paddling these students simply does not work to correct behaviors. He countered with data which he took from a colleague that expressed a different point of view. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth with Representative Olsen.  He is one of the few lawmakers who reaches out to me on a regular basis to discuss the impact of legislation on the youth of Oklahoma.

While we often disagree on the path, we always agree on our shared goal: improving lives of Oklahoma’s children.  I sincerely appreciate the dialogue; I know that I can go to him at any time with an issue and he will share his honest position on the topic. Occasionally, we even reach agreement.

I wish lawmaking today were more like this. I appreciate the principled stands that individuals take on issues, along with the ability to “meet in the middle” when it is necessary to accomplish a better path forward.

After all, that is what the quest for knowledge should bring.  Far too many people refuse to give an inch on their beliefs, even when the facts are laid out. Somewhere, “compromise” became a dirty word; it most certainly is not.

Caring people communicating with lawmakers can make positive change. On Monday, one of our collaborative partners, the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR) held an advocacy event called Invest in Kids (INK) Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol; the event focused on improving access to child care.  The program assembled child advocates together to learn advocacy tips and to receive a legislative update.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy promoted this event in our newsletter, and we were pleased to be a part of the group participating to encourage lawmakers to support beneficial legislation for young Oklahomans. It takes efforts like this to interact with lawmakers and provide information to help them do their jobs better.

I hope you will consider joining OICA for our next advocacy day on May 4 at the State Capitol.  You can find details at or in a future column.