OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House leadership has appointed a ten member task force to review the chamber’s student page program in light of a female page alleging she was raped by another page at a metro hotel last week.
House Speaker Charles McCall’s office said the speaker has named seven Republicans and three Democrats to the Page Program Task Force to look into the program, which was suspended last week after the sexual assault investigation came to light. A spokesperson for the speaker’s office said the task force is scheduled to meet next week.
Midwest City Police are investigating the alleged incident, as it took place at a Midwest City hotel which houses the pages while the legislature is in session. Hundreds of students from across the state take part in the high school program each year, according to the legislative website detailing the program, and are shuttled between the hotel and the capitol by bus each day.
Midwest City Police said the case is still an active investigation and recent court filings bears that out.
A search warrant affidavit for the hotel room where the alleged rape took place details what the 16-year-old girl told police, that she told the suspect multiple times she didn’t want to have sex, and didn’t know how to stop it.
According to court papers the girl said she met the boy and started talking as they were leaving the capitol by bus on March 12, to return to the hotel for the evening. At around 8:00 p.m. that night, the victim told police she was invited to the suspect’s hotel room. While there the suspect “coerced the victim to engage in oral sex and vaginal sex,” according to the search warrant affidavit.
The girl told police she told the suspect “numerous times” she didn’t want to have any type of sex, but the suspect telling her “it would be ok (sic),” according to the affidavit. Court documents say the girl told police she told the suspect “he was hurting her,” but that the suspect replied that “it was a good hurt.” The girl told police she said numerous times “she didn’t want to do this, but didn’t know how to stop it.”
The alleged victim reported the incident to her high school, which contacted the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which later reached out to the Midwest City Police Department.
About 24 hours after the alleged rape took place, the Oklahoma House of Representatives debated and voted down HB 1007, 39-56, called Lauren’s Law, that pushed for consent education for Oklahoma students.
“If we can even teach one young man that no means no, and protect even one young woman from sexual assault, then this is what this bill will do,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, during debate which lasted past 10:00 p.m. March 13.
Rosecrants, a former high school teacher, authored a similar consent education bill last session that passed out of the house, but was never voted on by the senate.
Fifteen Republicans, including two women, joined house Democrats in support of HB 1007; 56 Republicans, nine women and 45 men, voted against. Six members were marked as “excused.”
“I understand that the approach advocated by this bill does do some good things. however, I believe anything less than purity, chastity and faithfulness is not good enough for my children or for our children here in the state of Oklahoma,” said freshman Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland. “If you care about the children of Oklahoma, I urge you to vote against this bill.”
The following afternoon, house leadership said it was aware of the sexual assault investigation involving two pages, later announcing the program would be temporarily suspended.
“We are aware of an alleged incident in the House page program. We don’t have much information at this time. I can tell you and all I can tell you is the appropriate authorities are following up on the alleged incident,” McCall, R-Atoka, said during a press conference at the capitol on March 14. “This has to do with an alleged incident between two minors that were part of this week’s Page program and we just don’t know any facts and it would be reckless for anybody in this in this body to comment.”
“It’s an allegation that should be taken seriously and absolutely investigated to the full extent of our investigatory powers,” said Minority Leader Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, on the day word of the sexual assault investigation came to light.
“But situations like this occur all the time for our children who are in junior high and high school, and that really underscores for this legislation, that our kids are still unclear on what’s okay and what’s not,” Virgin said, referring to Lauren’s Law. “Our kids need to know that no means no, and yes means yes.”