Arkansas lawmakers hear testimony about student bathroom bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers in a House Education Committee heard testimony related to a bill that would limit students’ bathroom and trip accommodations to birth-assigned gender. The law would require districts to provide alternative facilities for transgender students.

State Rep. Mary Bentley (R) presented the bill alongside two Conway School Board members.

“Many of our students have suffered sexual abuse,” Bentley said. “Having a member of the opposite sex in their bathroom would be very stressful, at the very least.”

The bill is a carbon copy of the regulations passed by the Conway School Board for this year. 

“When you were in school, would you have ever thought about a biological male walking in your restroom where you’re half clothed or not clothed?” Linda Hargis, one board member said.

Schools would be required to provide single-use bathroom units that trans students can utilize.

When asked what schools that do not have those facilities should do, Bentley said Arkansas school districts already have them and it would not be a problem. She said it would not violate the law, as some members of the committee and the public said.

“The bill does not discriminate against anyone and is not unconstitutional,” Bentley said.

Clayton Crockett is the father of a trans child in Conway, and he said she was at the heart of the school accommodations debate.

“She’s incredibly bright,” Crockett said. “She gets very good grades.”

Crockett said his daughter was already using single-use bathrooms simply because she was embarrassed to go into the multi-use units used by her classmates. He said she was okay with that until Conway specifically made it a rule, making her feel targeted.

“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 passing this bill would only cause more pain for a student who already has to deal with bullying.

“If it passes, that’s even more of an encouragement for her to leave [the state] and never come back,” Crockett said.

In committee, several people spoke against the bill, but none spoke for it. A vote was delayed pending a financial impact statement being included, and the group will likely vote next week.