Arkansas Prohibits Transgender Use of School Restrooms

March 22, 2023

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) on Tuesday signed a law prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms at public schools that match their gender identities.

It’s the first law this year of several expected to be enacted in states of such bans that target the trans community. And it’s the fourth so far to place such restrictions. Meanwhile, bills in Idaho and Iowa have passed and await their governors’ signatures. 

An even stricter bill pending in Arkansas would criminalize transgender adults using public restrooms that match their gender identity.

“The Governor has said she will sign laws that focus on protecting and educating our kids, not indoctrinating them and believes our schools are no place for the radical left’s woke agenda,” Alexa Henning, Sanders’ spokesperson, said in a statement. “Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.” 

Arkansas’ school restroom bill won’t take effect until this summer. It applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools from pre-K through 12th grade.

Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, though lawsuits have been filed challenging those in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, North Carolina rolled back its own restroom bill in 2017, following backlash over transgender rights that had led to business boycotts. A compromise between the state’s Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature repealed the requirement that transgender people use public restrooms that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates. 

The new Arkansas law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, including single-person restrooms. Superintendents, principals and teachers who violate the prohibition could face fines of at least $1,000. Parents can file private lawsuits to enforce the measure.

Among opponents’ complaints is that the measure does not provide funding for schools that may need to build single-person restrooms to provide these accommodations.

At least two federal appeals courts have upheld transgender students’ rights to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. Supporters of the bill, however, have cited a federal appeals court ruling upholding a similar policy at a Florida school district last year.

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