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Arkansas bill aims to restrict multiple occupancy school restrooms, changing areas to single sex

by Will Langhorne | January 17, 2023 at 4:28 p.m.
A classroom is shown in this 2015 file photo.

A bill filed by an Arkansas lawmaker Tuesday would require schools to restrict multiple occupancy restrooms and changing areas to a single sex.

Under House Bill 1156, public school districts and open-enrollment charter schools would have to designate multiple-occupancy restrooms as "for the exclusive use" of the male or female sex. The bill also applies to locker rooms, changing areas and showers for schools that serve students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, said she decided to sponsor the bill after several school board members and parents from her district voiced support for the measure.

The bill requires schools to provide access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing room for anyone who does not wish to comply with the single-sex designations. An individual's sex is defined by the legislation as "the physical condition of being male or female based on genetics and physiology, as identified on an individual's original birth certificate."

[DOCUMENT: Text of HB 1156 » arkansasonline.com/117hb1156]

Schools sponsoring or supervising overnight trips would have to ensure students are assigned rooms based on their "birth-assigned gender."

Schools would have to adopt disciplinary policies for any individuals who violate the measure. Districts found noncompliant with the requirements could face cuts in state funding.

The bill provides exceptions for custodial, maintenance and inspection purposes. Individuals would be able to enter restrooms designated for the opposite sex to render medical assistance or address emergencies.

Bentley said she expects the bill to be a "simple pass," citing the Republican super majority in both state chambers.

Before reaching the floor of the House, the bill will have to pass through the House Education Committee. Sen. Dan Sullivan R-Jonesboro, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

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