LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a controversial bill restricting public school bathroom and changing room use to the gender assigned at birth, encouraging supporters of the measure while leaving some parents concerned about how the new law could negatively impact their children.
Sponsored in the House by Rep. Mary Bentley, the law will apply to restrooms and locker rooms at schools with students in Pre-K through the 12th grade and is based on policy enacted at the Conway School District. Arkansas is now one of four states with similar legislation.
“Unfortunately, many of our students have suffered sexual abuse,” Bentley said in committee. “Having a member of the opposite sex in their bathroom would be very stressful, at the very least.”
The move is being praised by several notable conservative groups, including the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (NACL), of which Bentley is a member.
“It is especially rewarding to see NACL working here in Arkansas helping to provide tools for legislators and school boards who want to empower parents and protect kids,” NACL Director of Law and Policy Bob Ballinger said.
Another law could soon be passed criminalizing transgender adults who use restrooms matching their gender identity. Clayton Crockett is the father of a trans child in the Conway School District who was at the heart of the school policy, and he said in committee this will do more harm than good.
“This is not Christian,” Crockett said. “This is not caring. This is not loving.”
Crockett said his daughter’s mental health has been negatively impacted by this.
“She has been having so much of a hard time going to school, wanting to go to school because of the gender dysphoria,” Crockett said.
Crockett said bills targeting trans people passed this session will likely force his daughter to move elsewhere.
“That’s even more of an encouragement for her to leave and not come back,” Crockett said.