Legislative pages return to Capitol following assault investigation
Pages for the Oklahoma House returned to the state Capitol this week, but male and female pages will not serve together for the remainder of the session following allegations that a teenage girl was sexually assaulted by a fellow page last month.
But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Thursday declined to charge the teenage boy accused of sexual assault with any crimes.
"Investigators with the Midwest City Police Department were able to determine that no crime was committed. ... We did that through forensics as well as witness testimony," Prater said.
The House Speaker temporarily halted the chamber's page program on March 14, two days after a female page alleged she was sexually assaulted by a male page. The Senate page program was not affected.
The incident in question occurred at a Sheraton hotel in Midwest City where pages spend the night — an expense covered by the Legislature.
Last week, a bipartisan task force of state lawmakers recommended restarting the page program, but having boys and girls serve separately. The 10-member task force, which included seven Republicans and three Democrats, also recommended increasing security for the programs, but was scant on details of the new security measures.
House Speaker Charles McCall reinstated the page program on Monday with boys and girls serving on alternate weeks. Boys were in service this week.
Every year, hundreds of Oklahoma high school students participate in the Legislature’s page program, serving at the Capitol for a week at a time. Pages typically help by running errands for lawmakers and their staffers.
Rep. Terry O’Donnell, who served as chairman of the task force said lawmakers are still evaluating the page program and considering additional changes, but that they didn’t want to deprive students of the experience in the meantime.
“We believe this is a program worth having, and that we should continue to provide these opportunities for our students,” said O’Donnell, R-Catoosa. “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.”
Democratic lawmakers both on and off the task force applauded the commission’s decision to reinstate the program, allowing other teenagers to get the page experience.
The girl told police the boy invited her to his room around 8 p.m. on March 12 and coerced her into having sex. She told police that she said numerous times that she didn’t want to have sex and that he was hurting her.
Editor's note: This story was updated to report the Senate page program was never temporarily put on hold.
Staff writer Nuria Martinez-Keel contributed to this report.