LITTLE ROCK, ARK. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday signed a law banning transgender people in public schools from using a restroom that matches their gender identity, the first of several states expected to enact such a ban this year amid a flood of nationwide bills targeting the transgender community. sexually.
The bill signed by the Republican governor makes Arkansas the fourth state to impose such restrictions in public schools, and comes as bills in Idaho and Iowa await their governor’s signature.
This could be followed by a stricter bill in Arkansas that would criminalize transgender adults to use public restrooms that match their gender identity.
The Arkansas law, which won’t go into effect until later this summer, applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and charter schools that serve pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Republican-majority legislature gave final approval to the bill last week.
“The governor said she will sign laws that focus on protecting and educating our children, not indoctrinating them, and she believes our schools are not a place for the radical left’s wake-up agenda,” Sanders’ spokeswoman, Alexa Henning, said in a statement. “Arkansas is not going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.”
Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, although lawsuits have been filed challenging Oklahoma and Tennessee’s restrictions.
Proposals to restrict transgender people’s use of the restroom of their choice have seen a resurgence this year, six years after North Carolina repealed a restroom law in the wake of widespread protests and boycotts.
More than two dozen bathroom bills have been filed in 17 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“They target transgender people for no other reason than to hate, disapprove, and misunderstand who transgender youth are,” said Paul Castillo, senior advisor and student rights strategist at Lambda Legal. “Entire school students are suffering as a result of these types of bills, especially schools, teachers and administrators who are dealing with real problems and need to focus on creating a welcoming environment for each student.”
The proposals are among a record number of bills introduced to restrict transgender rights by restricting or banning gender confirmation sponsorship to minors, banning transgender girls from school sports and restricting drag shows.
Transgender people have also faced increasingly hostile rhetoric in the role of the state.
Another bill pending in Arkansas goes further than North Carolina law by imposing criminal penalties.
The proposal would allow someone to be charged with a misdemeanor of sexual indecency with a child if they use a public restroom or locker room of the opposite sex when a minor is present.
“It’s a stark message from them that they refuse to respect (transgender) rights and humanity, and to respect the rights and humanity of Arkansas,” said Holly Dixon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.
New Arkansas law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, including one-person restrooms.
Supervisors, principals, and teachers who violate the ban could face fines of at least $1,000 from a state commission, and parents can also file private lawsuits to enforce the measure.
“Every child in our schools has the right to privacy, to feel safe, to feel comfortable in the bathroom they need to go to,” Republican Rep. Mary Bentley, the sponsor of the bill, told lawmakers earlier this year.
But Clayton Crockett, the father of a transgender child, described to lawmakers earlier this year how a similar policy adopted at his daughter’s school made her feel more marginalized.
“She feels targeted, she feels discriminated against, she feels intimidated, she feels discriminated against,” Crockett said at a House committee hearing on the bill in January.
Opponents also complained that the legislation does not provide funding for schools that may need to build single-person restrooms to provide reasonable accommodations.
At least two federal appeals courts have upheld the rights of transgender students to use the bathroom compatible with their gender identity.
However, supporters of the bill cited a federal appeals court ruling upholding a similar policy in a Florida school district last year.
Arkansas’ measure would not take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourned for this year’s session, which is not expected to happen until next month at the earliest.
Sanders signed the bill a week after she approved legislation that would make it easier to sue providers of sex confirmation care for minors.
The law, which also doesn’t go into effect until this summer, is an effort to reinstate a de facto ban on such care for minors that a federal judge banned.
Sanders earlier this month also signed into law a broad education bill that would ban classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation before the fifth grade.
The restriction is similar to a Florida measure that critics have called the “Don’t Say Like Me” law.
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