Arkansas panel reviews 2023 education bills

One hundred of the 890 bills passed by the 2023 Arkansas Legislature are related to education, including ones that addressed pronoun use and restroom use for transgender students, according to the Bureau of Legislative Research.

The Arkansas Education Committee reviewed the bills at a meeting on Monday. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed all of the bills into law.

Act 542, formerly House Bill 1468, prohibits a public school employee or an employee at a state-supported institution of higher education from addressing a student under the age of 18 with a pronoun inconsistent with the student’s biological sex or with a name other than the name on their birth certificate or a derivative of that name.

It also prevents schools from disciplining students if they decline to address someone by a pronoun inconsistent with their biological sex or using a name other than the name on their birth certificate.

Act 317 addresses school restrooms. Public school districts must designate each multiple occupancy restroom or changing area exclusively based on biological sex. It also calls for districts to provide “reasonable accommodation” to people unwilling or unable to use the restroom designated for their biological sex.

Lawmakers also passed Act 372 to address obscene materials in schools and public libraries. It creates the offense of furnishing harmful items to a minor. It adds loaning a book from a library to the list of actions that can constitute the offense of possessing, selling, or distributing obscene material.

The act also provides a process for individuals to challenge materials available to the public in media centers and public libraries if they believe the material is inappropriate.

And while the LEARNS Act bans the teaching of critical race theory in schools, Act 511 ensures public schools and state-supported higher education institutions do not require school employees to complete or participate in implicit bias training or take adverse action against them if they refuse to participate.

Other acts include Act 653, which prohibits public schools from offering abortion referrals, and Act 788, which protects students’ religious expression. Specifically, Act 788 bans public schools from discriminating against students based on religious viewpoints. It requires each public school district to adopt a policy regarding students’ voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.


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