The Missouri legislature would like to continue its internship program despite the program being marred by the recent sexual harassment of interns.
The idea the lawmakers have come up with? Imposing a dress code for the interns to “help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”
Missouri state Rep. Kevin Engler (R) sent a memo to his colleagues Monday night with suggestions, including minimum number of credit hours for participation and mandatory sexual harassment training for both interns and lawmakers, according to the Kansas City Star on Tuesday.
The move came after two legislators, including former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl (R), resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment of interns.
State Rep. Bill Kidd (R) responded to Engler with a suggestion of his own: “Intern dress code,” he wrote, according to the newspaper.
Rep. Nick King (R) agreed, the newspaper reported.
“We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females,” King wrote in an email, the Huffington Post reported on Tuesday. “Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”
Engler said the dress code makes sense.
“I think there are professional standards that should be required since we already have them as reps,” Engler told the news website on Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said establishing an intern dress code would put responsibility for the harassment on the interns when it should be on the harasser.
In letters to the Missouri lawmakers, McCaskill (who once worked as an intern at the state legislature) wrote that the proposed solution “bitterly disappointed” her.
I refuse to stand by idly while any suggestion is made that victims of sexual harassment in the Missouri State Legislature is the responsibility of anyone other than the legislators themselves. It is the responsibility of you and your colleagues to uphold the law, protect the young people working in our state’s capital, and confront and change a culture that excuses sexual violence. This problem has nothing to do with how interns are dressed.