Oklahoma FFA Member Writes Bill That May Soon Become Law

Thousands of high school students visit the Oklahoma state Capitol each year to learn about state government, including the process of how a bill becomes a law. But very few of those students take their civics lesson as far as FFA member Katie Sue Edelen did.

The Arapaho-Butler High School senior is waiting to hear if a bill she drafted as part of last year’s Capitol Camp, sponsored by Oklahoma Farm Bureau, will become law. Edelen was among a select group of high school juniors and seniors from FFA and 4-H who had the opportunity to write and discuss a piece of legislation about an issue that was important to them.

She created legislation that would create a statewide system known as Orange Alert, which would notify residents if an inmate escapes from a correctional facility within 40 miles of their location. Those opting to receive the notifications would hear an alarm on their cell phones, similar to the Amber Alert and Silver Alert systems.

“An alert would be sent out to everyone in a certain mile radius of the prison,” Edelen said, “so they would be able to take necessary precautions.”

Edelen’s draft caught the attention of Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, who agreed to sponsor House Bill 1546, which passed unanimously last week. The bill is now being considered by the Senate, authored by Kingfisher Republican Sen. Darcy Jech.

Edelen has a personal interest in the passage of the bill. In 2006, Edelen’s aunt was abducted from her home by two escapees from the Anadarko jail. If the Orange Alert notification system had existed at the time of her abduction, it might have helped Edelen’s family avoid the nightmare that ensued.

Although Edelen was a child at the time, she grew up hearing stories of her aunt’s harrowing escape from her captors. Edelen’s grandmother, Penny Berry, said she is grateful her daughter survived the incident, but her family was forever changed by the dramatic event.

“Katie Sue was a baby,” Berry said. “But she always heard our warnings about how to stay safe and the importance of being aware of your surroundings.”

Rep. Moore said residents who have a prison nearby deserve to be notified immediately if their safety is in danger from an escaped prisoner.

If the bill is approved by the Senate, the bill will then go to the governor for his signature.

About Oklahoma CareerTech’s student organizations

Oklahoma CareerTech has seven co-curricular student organizations, including FFA, FCCLA, BPA, DECA, TSA, HOSA and SkillsUSA. Membership in these organizations hit an all-time high this year, with 97,385 members. 

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