Bill for sexual assault education in schools passes Oklahoma House committee

"Lauren's Law" would help educate students about consent and healthy relationships in order to prevent sexual assault and abuse. (Caroline Vandergriff/KOKH)

A bill to educate Oklahoma students about consent and healthy relationships is one step closer to becoming a law. The House Education Committee voted unanimously Monday afternoon to move “Lauren’s Law” forward.

The bill is named after a Norman high school student who was sexually assaulted last year. The 17-year-old was at the committee meeting, and she didn’t hesitate to speak in front of lawmakers when asked.

“In May of last year, I was sexually assaulted by someone I went to school with and he didn’t, after it happened, I told him what you did was wrong, you’re not allowed to do that, and he didn’t seem to understand what he did was wrong,” said Lauren Atkins.

Lauren wants people to know what happened to her, in the hopes of preventing it from happening to someone else.

“I feel like if he was taught what consent was and exactly what you can and can’t do, then that would have prevented this,” she said.

House Bill 2734 would help create age-appropriate programs in Oklahoma schools about relationship issues, sexual assault, and consent.

Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, who is sponsoring the bill, changed some of its language in order for it to pass the first legislative hurdle. Schools won’t be mandated to provide this education; instead, the law will provide guidelines and recommendations for each district to implement.

The House Education voted 11-0 to move Lauren’s Law forward. Similar bills have been proposed in the past few years, but never made it past committee.

“The fact that they called [Lauren] up was unforeseen,” Rep. Rosecrants said. “I didn’t see that happening. So yeah, I think it helped immensely. The fact that she told her story, and that’s many girls’ stories. We’re talking about one-third in Oklahoma, one-third of these sexually violent acts are done to girls under 18 years of age.”

The unanimous vote gives hope to advocates.

“So optimistic,” Lauren said. “I have been the whole time, but this has just been reassuring.”

HB 2734 now needs a senate author before it can go to the full house for a vote.

“It’s all about making sure we prevent sexual assault,” said Rep. Rosecrants. “That’s what it comes down to. That’s why I decided to do this bill - to prevent sexual assault. That’s it.”

An online petition supporting Lauren’s Law has received more than 67,000 signatures.

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