Oklahoma House Bill Would Make Children's Statements of Neglect Admissible in Court

Feb 14, 2017

Statements about neglect by children younger than 13 could be admissible in court under an Oklahoma House bill.

Right now, state law only allows such evidence in cases of physical or sexual abuse. Edmond Republican Kevin Calvey said expanding the law to include neglect, which is not defined in the bill, is going too far.

"The potential for abuse of taking kids out of the home on this is so great, and it's been such a problem in U.S. history, that we have a federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, because so many Indian kids were yanked out of their homes under statutes just like this one," Calvey said.

Calvey was the lone vote in a judiciary committee hearing against the bill, which was requested by a district attorneys’ association.

"We're just saying that anybody who they think — because they don't go to school or maybe they don't want to vaccinate their kids — that that's going to be considered child neglect, and not only are they going to charge somebody with that, but they're going to be able to get hearsay testimony from a kid who's young enough to still believe in Santa Claus?" Calvey said.

Tulsa Republican Carol Bush said there’s good reason to expand the law to cover cases of neglect.

"The case that was brought before me included a 3-year-old child who could not actually verbalize what was happening, and the 10-year-old sibling could," Bush said.

The bill, which also covers statements made by mentally disabled persons, passed the committee 8–1 and heads to the full House.