A bill requiring transgender individuals to utilize public facilities that correspond with their biological gender and not their desired gender identity was signed by Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) on Tuesday.
The law covers multi-person bathrooms and locker rooms in charter and public schools serving students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The law will be in place prior to the start of the 2023–2024 school year, even if it won’t take effect until later in the summer.
A Sanders spokesperson told the Associated Press that the legislation was passed to shield kids from the “woke agenda.”
“The governor said that she will sign laws that prioritize safeguarding and educating our children, not trying to indoctrinate them, and also believes that our schools are just no place for such radical left’s woke ideology,” said Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Sanders.
She continued, “Arkansas is not going to alter the laws of biology just to appease a small group of far-left activists.”
Superintendents, administrators, and teachers who are found to have broken the law might be penalized at least $1,000 each. Also, parents might initiate private lawsuits against public and charter schools that disobey the law under the proposed legislation.
The law also mandates that public and charter schools offer transgender students reasonable accommodations, like single-person toilets. Nonetheless, the lack of funding for the lodgings has been challenged by the bill’s opponents.
Lambda Legal’s senior counsel and strategist for students’ rights, Paul Castillo, criticized the law for “singling out” transgender kids.
They are targeting transgender people just out of dislike, disgust, and a lack of understanding of what transgender youth are like,” according to Castillo. “And the entire student population is harmed because of these kinds of bills,” the author continued, “especially schools, teachers, and administrators who are coping with real issues and need to concentrate on fostering a welcoming atmosphere for each and every student.”
Republican Representative Mary Bentley, who is the bill’s sponsor, said earlier this year that “every child in our schools does have a right to their privacy and also to feel safe and comfortable inside the bathroom that they need to use.”
Arkansas has joined Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee as the fourth state to pass legislation prohibiting transgender persons from using restrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex.
Another law in Arkansas that has been suggested would make it a misdemeanor crime for someone to use a public restroom or changing area that is not the same as their biological sex while a minor is there.