Gov. Abbott to work with legislature to improve sexual harassment policies

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a ceremony where he signed SB7, a bill to address inappropriate teacher-student relationships, at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a ceremony where he signed SB7, a bill to address inappropriate teacher-student relationships, at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told KXAN that he will work with the Texas legislature to make improvements to sexual harassment policy at the Texas State Capitol.

This comes after State Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas, sent Abbott a letter asking for changes because the staff was not “fully educated as to where to report misconduct or harassment.” Koop wants victims to be able to report to someone who’s not a lawmaker and to rid the state of elected officials policing themselves on this issue.

“I was a little bit surprised here that even though people would say there are protocols, they didn’t know what the guidelines were,” said Koop.

“Governor Abbott believes in and enforces a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. No victim should ever fear reprisal or retaliation for rejecting unwanted advances or for filing a sexual harassment complaint,” wrote Abbott’s Deputy Communications Director Ciara Matthews.

Abbott has a policy that every employee under his charge is required to participate in Equal Employment Opportunity training within 30 days of being hired and from then on, on a yearly basis.

“The governor will work with the legislature on any improvements that provide further protections and deliver the respect everyone deserves and that as a state we should demand,” Matthews wrote.

This comes after articles from The Daily Beast and the Texas Tribune highlighted rampant sexual harassment at the Texas State Capitol and, in many cases, sexual assault. The Texas Tribune article is what prompted Koop to send the letter to Abbott.

Jolie McCullough is one of the reporters at the Texas Tribune who dug into the issue. “Ranging from suggested glances to comments, off-hand comments, to actual sexual assault. This goes back years and decades even,” said McCullough.

What surprised her was the Tribune team couldn’t find any evidence that someone filed a formal sexual harassment complaint, ever.

“I think it really demonstrates that this is a pervasive problem at the Texas Capitol and one that isn’t being dealt with properly,” said McCullough.

Koop hopes a new policy will be set by the 2019 legislative session.

The Texas Tribune reports, since the Texas Legislature first convened in 1846, of the 5,570 people who have been elected to serve as either a senator or representative only 155 have been women.

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