Arkansas has become the latest state to protect the right of school girls to the privacy and safety of female-only restrooms and changing rooms after a bill was enacted Tuesday prohibiting transgender students from using spaces that do not align with their biological sex.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the bill, which applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms in public and charter schools from kindergarten through to 12th grade, reports Fox News.
“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, spokesperson for Sanders, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.”
The law goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends on April 7 and will be in place for the start of the 2023-24 school year.
The law further requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations for transgender students, such as access to gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms and changing rooms, but critics claim there is no mention of providing funding to schools in order for this to be carried out.
Violation of the new law could result in fines of up to $1,000 from a state panel and parents will be allowed to file private lawsuits if the new law is not enforced.
“Each child in our schools has a right to privacy and to feel safe and to feel comfortable in the bathroom they need to go to," said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Bentley, earlier this year.
However, Clayton Crocket, who has a male child who identifies as a girl, said that such a policy at his child’s school led to feelings of further marginalisation, telling lawmakers at a House panel hearing in January that his child felt “targeted,” “discriminated against,” “bullied,” and “singled out.”
“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 to the Associated Press earlier this month.
Those who support spaces being segregated by biological sex rather than gender identity, however, do so in the interests of the privacy, safety, and dignity of women and girls.
Josh Alexander, of Renfrew Ontario, is currently excluded from his high school for staging a single-sex bathroom protest after two female students had confided in him that they were uncomfortable sharing intimate spaces with trans-identified male students.
The school had offered the use of gender-neutral bathrooms to one trans-identified male student who said in an interview with CTV News that this compromise was unacceptable because "people should be able to use which washroom they want to use without fear of being hurt." This privilege clearly does not extend to women and girls who want to use bathrooms free from males.
A further pending bill in Arkansas seeks to prohibit adults from using public restrooms or changing rooms that do not align with their biological sex and would charge those in violation in the presence of a minor with sexual indecency with a child, which is a misdemeanor.
Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, told The Associated Press that this proposed bill is a "flagrant message" proving some lawmakers "refuse to respect" transgender people's rights and humanity.
Arkansas became the fourth state to enact laws to protect female-only spaces in public schools. Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee have already enacted similar laws, but legal challenges have been filed against the restrictions in the latter two states. There are also bills in Idaho and Iowa that have passed the legislature and are awaiting their governor's signatures.
This latest action by Sanders comes just a week after she approved legislation making it easier to bring legal action against medical professionals who perform experimental sex changes on minors, and two weeks after she passed a bill prohibiting teachers from teaching children below Grade 5 about gender identity and sexual orientation.
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