USA: Arkansas House approves bill banning schools from requiring teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns
The Arkansas House of Representatives approved House Bill 1749 on Thursday, which will prevent schools from requiring teachers to refer to students by their preferred pronouns or name if they do not align with the student’s sex assigned at birth. The bill, called “an act to prohibit requiring public school and state-supported institution of higher education employees from addressing a student by … a word that is used to identify the student as male or female and that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex,” was supported by Representative Mary Bentley, who stated that “the idea behind the bill came from teachers who are scared to be taken to court if they choose against calling a transgender student by their preferred name.”
However, the bill goes a step further than protecting teachers from being taken to court; it provides teachers with a cause of action for “any adverse action” in response to misgendering students, allowing them to “be eligible for remedies” if they are disciplined by a public institution in any way for misgendering students, even if done intentionally and for the purpose of causing offense or harm. According to Bentley, “It’s not compelling anyone’s speech, it’s not prohibiting anyone’s speech.”
The bill follows the passing of Arkansas House Bill 1570, which banned transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming treatment and Senate Bill 354, which banned transgender women from participating in women’s sports.