Governor to Ceremonially Sign Bill Requiring Student/Teacher Communications to Include Parent

Ponca City Now - July 9, 2024 6:17 am

Oklahoma Capitol(Photo by Visions of America-Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Kevin Stitt is scheduled to ceremonially sign legislation requiring school personnel engaging in electronic or digital communication with an individual student to include the student’s parents or guardians.

House Bill 3958 is scheduled to be signed at 10:00 am Tuesday, July 9, in the Blue Room at the State Capitol.

The legislation is authored by Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond.

“This bill can save our students and our educators from the devastating consequences of inappropriate communication,” Conley said. “There have been absolutely too many reports in our schools of school employees sharing inappropriate messages with students, many times leading to actual physical abuse. This legislation will help curb that, and it will protect those educators who are falsely accused. It also can help in keeping parents fully informed of information pertaining to their child’s education. This is just the beginning of putting policies, procedures and laws in place to help ensure Oklahoma students are safe from those who do not have the best interests of our students in mind.”

Sen. Pugh added, “Through House Bill 3958, Oklahoma schools can further protect students by implementing procedures to avoid private communications between kids and adults. The measure provides that schools can utilize approved methods of communication that will allow teachers, students, and parents to continue discussing academics, school activities, and other pertinent information provided by school districts. I’m incredibly appreciative of everyone who has supported this bill throughout the legislative process so we can better serve students, parents, and educators across our state as we work to not only protect students and faculty but also enhance their learning environment and promote parental involvement in education.”

Attending the signing will be several who say they are victims and survivors of sexual abuse by school employees.

Ashley Rolen accused a coach at the Little Axe School District of sexually abusing her, reporting the incidences starting in 2002. She’s filed complaints against the coach and the district with the State Department of Education, first under former State Supt. Joy Hofmeister. Conley reported that the coach’s teaching certificate was surrendered July 8.   

Former Noble High School student Casey Yochum said he was groomed by his high school soccer coach. He first reported the matter in 2019. Charges have not been filed against the coach, who is reportedly no longer with the district, nor has any agency confirmed an investigation.

HB3958 was formally signed into law in May, but the governor hosts ceremonial signings of some bills to allow authors and others involved in the legislation the opportunity to participate in this part of the process.

The act took effect July 1.

Under the new statute, exceptions may be made in case of an emergency, subject to subsequent notification to the parent or guardian. The measure stipulates that school personnel shall make reasonable efforts to use school-approved platforms, systems or applications that allow automatic inclusion of parents or guardians in communications with students.

HB3958 specifies that schools shall provide training, developed by the State Department of Education, for school personnel on the student communication requirements within the act.

Any school personnel reported to be in violation of the new act shall be put on administrative leave while the school district investigates the incident and notifies the local and state boards of education.

If the investigation finds no misconduct occurred, the school personnel shall be reinstated with the incident noted in the employee’s file. If the investigation finds misconduct occurred, the school personnel’s employment shall be terminated, and the incident shall be reported to law enforcement pursuant to state statute.

In addition to the new statute, Conley said she has requested an interim study to examine additional ways to keep students safe at school. House interim studies will be approved later this month.

Sherrie Conley serves District 20 in the Oklahoma House of  Representatives. Her district includes parts of Cleveland and McClain counties.

 

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