Kansas lawmakers attend sexual harassment training in Topeka

TOPEKA (CAPITOL BUREAU) – Following a number of sexual harassment claims across the country, lawmakers at the Kansas Capitol are taking training to prevent it from happening there.

About 80 House members filled the old Supreme Court Room early Wednesday morning for an hour of sexual harassment training.

“It’s important for us to provide an environment that is safe,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe.

The presentation put on by the YWCA of Topeka, explained what qualifies as sexual harassment, and stressed the importance of consent.

“I think that the hope was to sort of take the blinders off a little and let folks know how really significant this is,” explained Michelle McCormick, the program director for YWCA.

Of the 125-member house, about 65 Republicans were in attendance, and about 10 Democrats. However, House Democrats previously held a sexual harassment training before the session began which about 30 attended.

“There are different things that maybe people have done that today they maybe recognize that oh that’s sexual harassment,” said Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe.

Leadership couldn’t make the training mandatory without changing the law since legislators are not considered employees, but are elected officials. Ryckman said some members had scheduling conflicts and more training would be available.

“We wanted people to be here that in their hearts and soul they want to make a difference, they want to be better leaders, they want to be better citizens.” he said.

“I’m so glad so many people turned out, but we need to make this happen frequently, it’s a good reminder,” added Holscher.

Holscher explained while she’s never experienced or seen sexual harassment at the capitol, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

“I recognize that it may occur with interns and staff members because we’re talking about power structure and power hierarchy,” she said.

The capitol’s sexual harassment policy hasn’t been updated since the 90’s. Ryckman said lawmakers are working on updating the policy to include annual training.

The Senate will hold its sexual harassment training on Thursday afternoon.

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