Oklahoma page program resumes following assault allegation
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Legislative pages are returning to the Oklahoma Capitol, but male and female pages will no longer serve together following an allegation of sexual assault.
Officials suspended the page program March 14 after a teenage page said she was sexually assaulted by a male page at a hotel.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Thursday declined to charge the male teen, saying investigators found no evidence of a crime after reviewing forensics and witness testimony, The Oklahoman reported.
Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall reinstated the page program on Monday, however male and female pages will now serve on alternate weeks.
Hundreds of high school students participate in the page program every year, spending a week at the Capitol running errands for lawmakers and legislative staff. The Legislature pays for the pages to stay at a hotel under the supervision of adult chaperones.
A bipartisan legislative task force has also recommended increasing security for the program. Lawmakers are considering additional changes but decided to restart the program because they didn’t want to deprive students of the experience, said Republican state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, who heads the task force.
“We believe this is a program worth having, and that we should continue to provide these opportunities for our students,” he said. “We are taking the protection of our pages very seriously, and we are making immediate changes that will enhance safety for our participants. We will continue to look at the program from a long-term perspective as the task force meets over the next few weeks.”
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com