On Tuesday, March 22nd, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill into law that would prevent transgender people from using the bathroom facilities of their gender identity. The law will apply to facilities including the bathrooms, locker rooms, and multi-person rest rooms. This law applies to traditional public schools and charter schools that cater to students from prekindergarten to Grade 12. This is yet another example of similarly crafted legislation passed by Republican states. Similar laws have been passed in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
“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,” wrote Sanders’ spokesperson Alexa Henning in a statement. “Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.”
The newly passed law will require that the schools provide suitable, alternative accommodation for transgender people to use as restrooms. It also comes with punitive measures for teachers, principals, and superintendents who break the law. If broken, fines of at least $1,000 will be handed out. Parents who fail to enforce the law may be subject to lawsuits.
LGBTQ+ advocates have criticized the law for shunning and ostracizing transgender people.
“These bathroom bans hurt students’ academic achievement – and the educators held accountable for students’ success. Discriminatory policies affect more than just grades: LGBTQ+ students who experience discrimination, like being prohibited from using the restroom, report higher levels of depression and lower self-esteem. Enforcing these bills would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for schools and extraordinarily invasive toward transgender students,” Melanie Willingham-Jaggers told CNN. Willingham-Jaggers is the executive director of GLSEN, an outlet that looks to create safe and suitable environments for LGBTQ+students.
“They’re singling out transgender people for no other reason than dislike, disapproval, and misunderstanding of who transgender youth are,” said Paul Castillo, senior counsel and students’ rights strategist for Lambda Legal. “And the entire school population suffers as a result of these types of bills, particularly schools and teachers and administrators who are dealing with real problems and need to focus on creating a welcome environment for every student.”
There have been similar laws passed in other states. Governor Ivey of Alabama signed into law a rule that students in public schools can only use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned on their original birth certificates. In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt passed a law preventing transgender students in public high schools from using multiple occupancy restrooms and changing their gender identity.
Republicans across the United States of America have been hard at work passing laws aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. According to a group of three researchers; Erin Reed, Alejandra Caraballo, and Allison Chapman, who study the filing and passing of legislation affecting the LGBTQ+ community, Republicans have introduced over 300 bills on the above mentioned matter. These laws come in various forms with some seeking to restrict transgender people from participating in sports, using medical procedures to alter their physical appearance, and teaching about the LGBTQ+ community. One such law was the one passed in Florida, which was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation at specific school levels. The matter of the LGBTQ+ community has become a politicized matter that will affect oncoming elections and interactions within communities.