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Ethics, Conduct, Sexual Harassment Training Held For Legislature

Jenifer Jones

Lawmakers received a roughly hour and a half professional development training. The training centered on ethics, code of conduct and sexual harassment.

A national group that advocates for state legislatures gave the presentation.

Brian Weberg is with the National Conference of State Legislatures. He gave part of the training on recognizing sexual harassment when it occurs..

He says nationwide, statehouses are refining their policy around sexual harassment. He says one change that many states are implementing are having multiple places to report a complaint or talk about a harassment situation. Those rules already exists in the South Dakota state capitol.

“A message about personal responsibility on one level, and, at least in the sexual harassment part, this sense that there’s an opportunity to make some important change in our institutions," Weberg says. "Not just in our government, but in the private sector as well, that we need to grab that opportunity and run with it.”

The training comes as a national conversation surrounding sexual harassment and assault is unfolding.

State Senator Deb Peters helped organize the ethics and sexual harassment training. She says the most important takeaway from the training was if a person is uncomfortable by your actions, you’ve done something wrong.

“It doesn’t matter how you feel if you’re giving them a hug. If they did not want the hug, you have just crossed the line,” Peters says. “It’s important to know that people probably don’t feel comfortable. It’s something that we all have to be aware of, if somebody is not a hugger, you got to be prepared, ‘That is not a hugger.’ Shake their hand, fist bump, do whatever is appropriate for that person. It’s important to know where people’s boundaries are, but that’s part of the conversation that has to stay alive, so people understand where their comfort levels are and everybody is going to have a different level of where that’s at.”

Peters says the training was scheduled months before the stories of two women who experienced harassment and assault during previous sessions in Pierre came to light.

The training comes just as a subcommittee in the State Senate is taking a closer look at its sexual harassment rules.