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AM NewsBrief: Mar. 11, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Monday, March 11, 2024.

Teacher texting ban

A bill that would prohibit electronic or digital communication between school personnel and students advanced from the Oklahoma House Floor last week.School staff could face penalties - even if they are found not to have violated the law.

House Bill 3958 by Newcastle Republican Representative Sherrie Conley and Edmond Republican Senator Adam Pugh would prohibit school personnel from sending communications like emails, texts and direct messages to students without including their parents or guardians. There are exceptions in the bill for emergencies, as long as parents are subsequently notified and staff have made reasonable efforts to use school-approved platforms.

Personnel would also take state training on appropriate communication methods.
If a school staff member was reported to be in violation, they would be put on administrative leave while the district conducts an investigation. If the school finds misconduct to have occurred, the staff member would be fired and reported to law enforcement. If the school finds no misconduct, the staff member would be reinstated, but with a written warning on their employee file. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Unauthorized homeless camps

State lawmakers are considering a measure that would prevent unauthorized homeless camps on state property. Two bills are making their way through the state legislature.

Senate Bill 1854 and House Bill 3686 would stop anyone from setting up any tent, shelter, or bedding for overnight use on a property not designated as a campsite. Senator Darrell Weaver authored the Senate measure. He says the bill will improve public safety, citing concerns about people experiencing homelessness camping in areas where they could pose risks to themselves and others, such as along roadways.

Democratic critics argue it further criminalizes homelessness and will create barriers for people to get out of bad situations without solving challenges they face. Both bills have passed out of their chambers of origin along party lines.

Prison rodeo update

A bill providing money to restore the prison rodeo arena in McAlester is advancing to the Senate after passing the state House of Representative in a 60-21 vote. House Bill 37- 49 allocates more than $8 million dollars to revive the event venue, which has been closed for over a decade.

The project would repair the multi-purpose arena at the prison and is estimated to cost more than $9 million. The department will make up the rest of the money. Although the bill’s supporters say it will provide an economic boost in the area, opponents say there are more immediate needs in correctional facilities, like basic infrastructure.

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