Arkansas lawmakers send Gov. Sanders school bathroom bill
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Transgender people at Arkansas public schools would not be able to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity under a bill lawmakers sent to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday.
The bill approved by the majority-Republican House applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools serving prekindergarten through 12th grades. The House, which approved an earlier version of the bill last month, passed the bill on a 77-15 vote without any debate.
The proposal is among dozens of bills proposed this year targeting transgender people, who have also faced increasingly hostile rhetoric at statehouses.
Teachers, principals and superintendents who violate the measure could face fines from a state panel, and parents could file lawsuits to enforce the restriction.
Sanders’ office did not say whether the Republican governor planned to sign the legislation. Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman, said Sanders “would sign a law that focuses on protecting and educating our kids, not indoctrinating them.”
Opponents of the bill said the restriction would further marginalize and risk transgender youth at schools, and urged Sanders to veto it.
“By requiring schools to police student’s restroom usage and forcing trans youth to use restrooms that do not align with their gender identity, this bill creates a hostile and discriminatory environment that could lead to exclusion, harassment, and bullying,” Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said in a statement.
Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Lawsuits have been filed challenging the Oklahoma and Tennessee restrictions.
The bill advanced as lawmakers are considering a more far-reaching bathroom bill that would make it a crime for a transgender person to use a public restroom corresponding with their gender identity.
Critics have said that bill would be the most extreme in the country and goes further than a bathroom law North Carolina enacted in 2016 and repealed a year later following widespread protests.
The House approved the school bathroom bill two days after Sanders signed legislation that would make it easier to sue providers of gender-affirming medical care for children.