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Inspired by the story of KSHB 41, Missouri lawmakers propose bills to protect children

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

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

However, her family was later surprised to learn that the agency to which they reported it, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), was not obligated to turn these reports over to the police because their employees are not mandatory reporters.

Since our KSHB 41 I-Team investigation went on the air more than a year ago, Kansas has passed legislation to ensure that 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 trying to do the same, with added protection.

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

She no longer plays college basketball and instead has taken on a different role on the court, now as a coach.

It only reinforced his desire to see laws changed to protect young athletes.

As he explained to us, at the end of the day he simply wants more checks and balances, so if one of his players approaches someone connected to the sport 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 brought it down a little bit, my love for it, I don’t want that to happen to (other) girls who play basketball,” she said.

Since Richardson shared his story about his basketball coach going overboard by sending inappropriate text messages and Snapchats, at least three state lawmakers have been inspired to take action.

Missouri State Representative Doug Richey went first.

From the outset, the Republican lawmaker and pastor told us he was deeply disturbed to learn that reports made to the MSHSAA may not be shared with appropriate authorities.

“If a child is caught drinking or smoking, [MSHSAA] it’s going to punish him,” Richey said. “But still, I’m not there to protect them, against coaches and stuff. Shame on you for not enforcing this policy. And if you don’t, I’ll work to do it,” Rep. Richey explained to us when we first brought this issue to him in November 2021.

Even though his first attempt failed last year, he’s trying again this legislative session.

In addition to the bill she has reintroduced, she is receiving help from the Senate, courtesy of Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur, who has proposed similar legislation.

“I think every parent wants to know that when their child participates in school activities, including sports, their children will be safe and that they can be trusted by the adults around them,” Senator Arthur said.

Both lawmakers say their bills aim for greater protection for children by clarifying who is a commissioned reporter.

Another similarity? Both call themselves “Emilyn’s Law,” acknowledging Richardson’s courage in sharing his story.

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

“Wow, thank you, thank you! Sure, it wouldn’t have been done without them or without you guys even taking the opportunity to do it for me. Thank you all so very much, so thank you!”

And she’s not the only one to be grateful.

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

“It’s amazing, you know, she was strong enough to come forward with her story, her proud mother,” said Jennifer Robinson. “And I just thank everyone who heard her story,” Richardson said.

This includes Kansas Rep. Kristey Williams (R), who sponsored the bill making reporters mandatory of KSHSAA members.

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

“Let’s hope Missouri steps up like Kansas and passes this bill!” adds his father, TIm.

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

Rep. Richey is trying to build a database that tracks credible allegations of abuse or inappropriate behavior.

Similarly, Senator Arthur’s bill seeks to better regulate how coaches and school volunteers are selected and make sure any red flags are shared across different school districts.

It’s worth noting that KSHB 41 never named the accused coach in Richardson’s case because, while the school asked him to step down due to interactions with its then-player, he never faced any charges.

He died before our story aired.

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