A US governor has signed a law prohibiting transgender people at state schools from using the toilet that matches their gender identity.
Arkansas is the first of several states expected to enact such bans this year amid a flood of bills nationwide targeting the trans community.
Arkansas is now the fourth state to place such restrictions at state schools, and it comes as bills in Idaho and Iowa also await their governor’s signature.
And it might be followed by a stricter Arkansas bill criminalising transgender adults using public toilets that match their gender identity.
Arkansas’ law, which will not take effect until later this summer, applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools serving preschool children through secondary school. The majority-Republican legislature gave final approval to the Bill last week.
The Bill was signed by the Republican governor of Arkansas Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose spokesperson said in a statement: “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 added: “Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.”
Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, although lawsuits have been filed challenging the Oklahoma and Tennessee restrictions.
Proposals to restrict transgender people using the toilet of their choice have seen a resurgence this year, six years after North Carolina repealed its bathroom law in the wake of widespread protests and boycotts. More than two dozen bathroom bills have been filed in 17 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“They’re singling out transgender people for no other reason than dislike, disapproval and misunderstanding of who transgender youth are,” Paul Castillo, senior counsel and students’ rights strategist for Lambda Legal, said.
“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.”
The proposals are among a record number of bills filed to restrict the rights of transgender people by limiting or banning gender-affirming care for minors, banning transgender girls from school sports and restricting drag shows.
Another bill pending in Arkansas goes further than the North Carolina law by imposing criminal penalties. That proposal would allow someone to be charged with misdemeanour sexual indecency with a child if they use a public toilet or changing room of the opposite sex when a minor is present.
“It’s a flagrant message from them that they refuse to respect (transgender people’s) rights and humanity, to respect Arkansans’ rights and humanity,” Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said.
The new Arkansas law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, including single-person toilets. Staff who violate the prohibition could face fines of at least 1,000 US dollars from a state panel, and parents could also file private lawsuits to enforce the measure.
“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,” Republican Mary Bentley, the Bill’s sponsor, told lawmakers earlier this year.