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Inspired by KSHB 41 Investigation, Missouri lawmakers propose bills to protect students

Republican and Democrat lawmakers both propose bills to make MSHSAA mandatory reporters
MSHSAA state soccer championship.png
Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 20:45:39-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At KSHB 41, we believe in following through on the stories that matter to you.

That includes the case of a former Liberty High School basketball player who reported receiving inappropriate text messages from her then-coach.

However, her family was later surprised to learn the agency she reported it to, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), wasn't obligated to turn those complaints over to police because their employees are not mandatory reporters.

Since our KSHB 41 I-Team investigation aired more than a year ago, Kansas has passed a law to ensure the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) requires all employees to be mandatory reporters.

Now, as a result of our story, two Missouri lawmakers are looking to do the same, with an added protection.

A lot has changed in the almost year-and-a-half since we first sat down with Emilyn Richardson.

She's no longer playing college basketball and instead, she's assumed a different role on the court, now as a coach.

It's only strengthened her desire to see laws changed to protect young athletes.

As she explained to us, at the end of the day she simply wants more checks and balances so if one of her players goes to anyone connected to sports with a complaint of abuse or inappropriate behavior, that person will be required to report it.

"Knowing me, how much I loved that sport and how it knocked it down a little bit, my love for it, I don’t want that to happen to (other) girls playing basketball," she said.

Since Richardson shared her story about her basketball coach crossing the line by sending inappropriate text and snapchat messages, at least three state lawmakers have been inspired to take action.

Missouri State Representative Doug Richey was the first.

From the get-go, the Republican lawmaker and pastor told us he was deeply troubled to learn reports made to MSHSAA might not get shared with the proper authorities.

"If a kid gets caught drinking or smoking, [MSHSAA] will punish him" Richey said. "But yet, they’re not there for the protection of them, against coaches and things of that nature. Shame on you for not putting this policy in place. And if you’re not going to do it, then I will work to get it done," Representative Richey explained to us when we first brought this issue to him in November 2021.

Although his first attempt fell short last year, he's giving it another shot this legislative session.

In addition to the bill he's refiled, he's getting an assist from the Senate side, courtesy of Democratic Senator Lauren Arthur, who's proposed similar legislation.

"I think every parent wants to know that when their child participates in school activities, including sports, that their kids are going to be safe and that the adults around them can be trusted," said Sen. Arthur.

Both lawmakers say their bills are aimed at more protection for kids by clarifying who is a mandated reporter.

Another similarity? They're both named, "Emilyn's Law," recognizing Richardson’s bravery in sharing her story.

When we shared the news with Emilyn, she beamed, and had this message for lawmakers.

"Wow, thank you, thank you! Of course, they wouldn’t have been done without them or without you guys even taking the opportunity to do this for me. I thank you all extremely, so thank you!"

And she's not the only one who's grateful.

Her parents are equal parts thankful and proud of their daughter.

"It’s incredible, you know, she's been so strong to come forward with her story, her proud mother," Jennifer Robinson said. "And I just thank everybody who listened to her story," Richardson said.

That includes Kansas Representative Kristey Williams (R), who sponsored the bill making KSHSAA members mandatory reporters.

That change was signed into law last May, giving the Richardson's hope that change for their state won't be far behind.

"Hopefully Missouri will step up like Kansas side and pass this law!" adds her dad, TIm.

Both Rep. Richey's bill and Sen. Arthur's bill go beyond just making MSHSAA members mandatory reporters.

Rep. Richey is seeking to create a database that would track credible accusations of abuse or inappropriate behavior.

Sen. Arthur's bill similarly seeks to better regulate how coaches and school volunteers are screened and make sure any red flags are shared between different school districts.

It's worth noting, KSHB 41 never named the coach accused in Richardson's case because, while the school asked him to resign as a result of the interactions with his then-player, he never faced any charges.

He passed away before our report aired.