Jan 19, 2023 - News

Arkansas bill seeks to restrict school bathroom use by gender

Photo: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A bill that would require people to use school restrooms corresponding with the sex listed on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity, was filed in the state Legislature on Tuesday.

  • HB1156, submitted by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), applies to public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools.

The big picture: Three states — Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee — have so-called bathroom legislation that directly affects children, NPR reports. Six other states, including Arkansas, either have had legislation fail or are working on measures currently.

Flashback: In 2021, Arkansas banned transgender girls from joining female sports teams and was the first state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors after former Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill.

  • Families of transgender minors who sued the state to permanently stop the second law are awaiting a ruling.

Details: Bentley's bill would:

  • Require students attending an overnight trip to be assigned to a room based on the sex listed on their birth certificate;
  • Ensure that communal restrooms, locker rooms, showers and changing rooms for grades K-12 be used by students based on the sex listed on their birth certificate;
  • Require schools to provide reasonable accommodations of single-occupancy restrooms for students who don't wish to comply;
  • Mandate that schools develop and administer disciplinary actions for students who refuse to comply.

The intrigue: Any school found noncompliant by the State Board of Education would face a decrease of 5% of its state foundation funding the following fiscal year.

What they're saying: Bentley did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

The other side: "Nearly every court to consider the issue has held that it is illegal to bar transgender youth from restrooms that align with their gender identity," Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  • "Passing such a bill not only harms transgender young people but could cost the state millions in costly litigation and federal funding losses."

How we got here: A "bathroom bill" passed in 2016 in North Carolina immediately triggered nationwide rebuke and boycott campaigns from corporations and organizations that halted or delayed plans to do business in that state — most notably, the NBA decided to move its All-Star Game in 2017 to New Orleans.

What's next: The Arkansas measure will be reviewed today by the state House Education Committee.


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