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Arkansas anti-trans schools bathroom bill signed into law

“Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates,” a spokesperson said



Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

LITTLE ROCK – Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law Tuesday a measure that prohibits trans Arkansans from using a bathroom matching their gender identity in the state’s K-12 public school facilities.

The language of the law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations for trans students and others, that includes single-person restrooms and changing areas. Schools that violate the law can face fines of at least $1,000, and parents can also file lawsuits to enforce the measure.

“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. Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates,” Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Sanders told multiple media outlets.



Arkansas State Library Board rejects proposals to withhold funds

Over the last few years, hard-right conservatives have tried to tie library funding to whether certain books are available on shelves



Shari Bales (center), a member of the Arkansas State Library Board, addresses her fellow board members, including Lupe Peña de Martinez (left) and Jo Ann Campbell (right), at the board’s quarterly meeting on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate)

By Tess Vrbin | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas State Library Board on Friday voted down two motions to withhold state funding from public libraries that board member Jason Rapert put forth in his ongoing opposition to the presence of certain books on library shelves.

The former Republican state senator from Conway reintroduced a motion he proposed at February’s board meeting to suspend funding for libraries suing the state until the litigation is concluded. The proposal died for lack of a second in February. On Friday, the other six members of the board voted against the motion while Rapert was the only one to vote for it.

Rapert also moved to withhold funds for “any library that allows unrestricted access to books or materials that contain sexually explicit, obscene or pornographic materials to minors,” based on the results of a survey he requested in February. The motion failed with the same results.

State Library Director Jennifer Chilcoat circulated Rapert’s request to find out whether a list of books he considers inappropriate for minors are available on library shelves statewide, and Rapert said the survey revealed the presence of 352 “objectionable” books. He did not say how many of the state’s dozens of library systems responded or did not respond to the survey.

The board does not “have any way to determine which libraries might be knowingly making obscene materials available for children,” board Chairwoman Deborah Knox of Mountain Home said.

 Former state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway (Dwain Hebda/Arkansas Advocate)

“I’m having a hard time believing that any of our public libraries are doing that, and I would hate to approve a motion inhibiting distribution of funds to those libraries when we have no way of knowing if those libraries even exist,” Knox said.

Rapert said the survey results prove otherwise.

“You can claim all this stuff, going around and around in circles, acting like you don’t know that there’s explicit material teaching kids how to give oral sex to each other,” he said, raising his voice. “I hope every community in the state watches this [meeting]. I am appalled that any adult would try to stop us from taking a stand against this junk on library shelves.”

Both of Rapert’s motions would have applied to distributions of funding at future board meetings, since they were introduced after the board voted to give public libraries their allotted share of state money for the final quarter of fiscal year 2024. Rapert was the only member to vote against the disbursement.

Shari Bales of Hot Springs, who was confirmed to the board by the state Senate along with Rapert in December, asked who is responsible for determining whether a book’s content is sexually explicit or pornographic. Rapert responded by amending his motion to specify “sexually explicit, obscene or pornographic materials… as described in Act 372.”

The 2023 law in question would alter Arkansas libraries’ processes for reconsidering material and create criminal liability for librarians who distribute content that some consider “obscene” or “harmful to minors.” The law mentions the word “obscene” several times but does not define it, and it does not include “sexually explicit” or “pornographic” in the text at all.

The law’s first section does include the phrase “furnishing a harmful item to a minor,” defining “item” as “a material or performance that depicts or describes nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse.”

A federal judge temporarily blocked two portions of Act 372, including the first section, in July before it went into effect. U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks wrote in his preliminary injunction order that the two sections could lead to arbitrary interpretation and “content-based restrictions” that violate the First Amendment. The case is scheduled for trial in October.

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), the Fayetteville Public Library and the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library are among the 19 plaintiffs challenging the law.

Rapert’s amended motion died for lack of a second before the original motion failed.

Over the last few years, hard-right conservatives in Arkansas have tried to tie library funding to whether certain books are available on shelves. In November 2022, a narrowly-approved ballot measure cut Craighead County libraries’ funding in half after protests over an LGBTQ+ book display and a transgender author’s visit to the library.

Republican state Sen. Dan Sullivan of Jonesboro, the seat of Craighead County, was the primary sponsor of Act 372 in the Legislature. In October, he said the state should withhold funding from the Arkansas Library Association (ArLA), a nonprofit trade association that does not receive state funding.

Many local Arkansas libraries are ArLA members, and the organization is among the plaintiffs challenging Act 372.

Board discussion

Bales said she thought Rapert’s motion about explicit content “sounds a lot like legislation” and was outside the board’s purview. She emphasized that her opposition to the motion did not mean she wanted her children to read “dirty books.”

“I think we should err on the side of staying in our lane and wearing the hats that have been assigned to us,” she said. “…It may be a really good idea, but sometimes really good ideas are not always really good policies.”

Bales also repeated her concerns from February about Rapert’s proposal to withhold funding for libraries suing the state. Rapert argued again that a state entity should not provide money to plaintiffs that could use it to pay their attorneys. Bales said the plaintiffs might be using private funds for this purpose, which would make withholding public funds “a moot point” and possibly “coercion.”

Rapert said it was an “exaggeration” that his proposal might be coercive to the entities that the board funds. He also said the state Legislature can dissolve state boards that do not “do their jobs.”

“We’re the ones that decide how the money is disbursed, and if you don’t understand that… maybe you need to revisit what you’re on the board for,” he said.

Rapert asked Chilcoat to place an item on the agenda for the board’s next meeting in August to “assess and handle” the presence of “pornographic” books in libraries. He did not name any of the books in question, which he did in February, but he mentioned a book with an incest scene that “shocked” him.

Board member Lupe Peña de Martinez of Mabelvale said she recently read six of the books Rapert opposes, including the one with the scene he mentioned. She said her 13-year-old child is not currently allowed to read the books but will someday be mature enough to read them.

Books that depict sexual abuse of children by adults, including incest, are intended as resources for children who have experienced this, Peña de Martinez said, and making these books unavailable to minors across the board “is exercising the privilege of a much more comfortable life.”

“I am repulsed by what’s in those books, but not because I’m upset with the authors,” she said. “I’m repulsed at what children are victim to… If we read the books cover to cover, it’s not about exposing children to lewd content. It’s about saying, ‘This is not right, and there are adults who love you and want to protect you.’”

Peña de Martinez’s comments received applause from the librarians in the audience.

Rapert acknowledged that these issues are real but said some books “are actually grooming children, and that is another problem.”


Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants’ rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.


The preceding article was previously published by the Arkansas Advocate and is republished with permission.

The Arkansas Advocate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to tough, fair daily reporting and investigative journalism that holds public officials accountable and focuses on the relationship between the lives of Arkansans and public policy. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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Arkansas governor signs order prioritizing anti-trans state law

“This latest action is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior from Gov. Sanders, who seems more invested in divisive politics”



Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order on May 2, 2024 at the Arkansas Capitol directing schools to follow state law over new Title IX regulations. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

By Antoinette Grajeda | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In response to new Title IX regulations that include protections for LGBTQ+ students, Arkansas’ governor signed an executive order Thursday that instructs public schools to instead follow state law and directs the education department to provide guidance on how to do so.

The final rule, which the U.S. Department of Education announced last month, protects students and employees from sex-based discrimination, requires schools have in place measures to offer support to to those who make complaints, sets guidelines for schools and codifies protections for transgender students from sex discrimination. 

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press conference Thursday called the changes a “reinterpretation” and “total rewrite” of Title IX. 

“It’s a document that should scare every woman and frankly every man in America,” Sanders said. “Title IX was created to protect women, but Biden’s Title IX attempts to erase women completely.”

If the Biden administration threatens a loss of federal education funding because Arkansas “refused to go along with his election-year pandering,” Sanders said the state would take the federal government to court. More than a dozen Republican-led states filed legal challenges this week, including Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida.

“My message to Joe Biden and the federal government is that we will not comply,” she said.

Among the Arkansas laws to be enforced is Act 317 of 2023, which defines sex on the basis of biology, ensures public schools designate restrooms based on sex, and requires students to share sleeping quarters with students of the same sex or be provided with single-occupancy sleeping quarters. 


Additional gender-related state laws include the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which requires schools that designate sports teams to do so on the basis of sex, and the Given Name Act, which prohibits employees of public schools and state-supported education institutions from being required to use someone’s preferred pronouns. 

Sanders also signed an executive order in October that bans gender-neutral language in state government documents. 

In a social media post Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas called the executive order a “clear, aggressive attack on the well-being and freedoms of LGBTQ people in our state.” 

“This latest action is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior from Gov. Sanders, who seems more invested in divisive politics and fueling culture wars than addressing the urgent needs of Arkansans,” the post reads. “This pattern of hostility and neglect must end. We call on Gov. Sanders to cease these draconian measures and redirect her focus towards improving the lives of all Arkansans.”


Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.


The preceding article was previously published by the Arkansas Advocate and is republished with permission.

The Arkansas Advocate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to tough, fair daily reporting and investigative journalism that holds public officials accountable and focuses on the relationship between the lives of Arkansans and public policy. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Another wound that will never heal; another tragic teen’s death

“Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future”



Ethan (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The pain was palpable as it radiated from the grief stricken single mother who lost her only child- her beloved son, to suicide this past Sunday as she spoke in the phone call Thursday evening with the Blade.

Ethan was only 15 in fact he had just celebrated his birthday this past month.

Ethan was a bright and compassionate teenager, quick to help his elderly neighbors with lawncare, carrying in the groceries, or just sitting out on their porches listening to them tell stories or chat. “He was such a good boy, so loving, so caring,” his mother said.

Growing up in a small rural community in Arkansas, Ethan loved to hunt, fish, and spend time with Dad and he was a dutiful son to his mother, but that all changed a year ago when Ethan told his parents his truth- he was gay.

His mother was good with it she says, “His Dad left us, just walked away from him. No contact, silence.” His father’s rejection and abandonment left Ethan feeling guilt and despair, struggling to cope with the fallout of his father’s departure and the financial burdens placed on his now single mother.

She explained: “He began to withdraw and late at night he started to hurt himself even to the point to go to the E.R.” Adding to Ethan’s stress “the local farm boys would say hateful things, they’d call him faggot, they’d stay away telling him he was gonna give them AIDS or die from it.,” she said. The rejection and bullying got so bad at the school that staff stepped in and put an end to it. “The school was so supportive, they even gave in-school suspensions, but then those boys, others, went on line and it got worse,” she told the Blade.

Like most teens Ethan kept much of his pain to himself as his despair over loss of the relationship with his father, worry over his single Mom and money as she works in food service and money is scare became too much. “He was fine on Saturday- I mean it was a good day I didn’t see any problems,” she related to the Blade. On Sunday, he was gone- forever.

Now his mother is left with memories and questions that will never be answered. For now, his mother, Connie, asks for privacy during this difficult time as she grapples with the devastating loss of her only child.

After being contacted, Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project USA has stepped in to support Ethan’s grieving mother, providing grief counseling services and assisting with final arrangements.

“In the face of adversity, it is crucial for communities to come together to support LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Hate and intolerance have no place in a society that values love and acceptance for all. By honoring Ethan’s memory and advocating for inclusivity, we must strive to create a world where every individual is celebrated for who they are,” said Lance Preston CEO and Founder of Rainbow Youth to the Blade.

“As Connie navigates this overwhelming grief and loss, let us stand united in compassion and solidarity, offering our support and understanding. Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future,” Preston added.

Editor’s Note: In consideration of preserving her privacy the Blade has not published Connie’s surname nor her residence’s location in Arkansas.

If you are in a life-threatening situation, please dial 911.

If you are in crisis, please dial 988 or contact Rainbow Youth Project directly at +1 (317) 643-4888

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Arkansas drops credit for AP Black History course

The full impact is still unclear. Teachers were reportedly told they could still offer the class, but the state will not recognize it



Los Angeles Blade graphic/montage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An email was sent out Saturday morning, after a late Friday afternoon phone call by an official from the Arkansas Department of Education, to the state’s school districts informing faculty and staff that the new AP class focused on African-American history and culture had been dropped.

This action from the state’s education department came just two days before the first classes of the 2023-2023 school year was set to begin in Arkansas high schools planning to offer the class.

The interdisciplinary course reaches into a variety of fields—literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science—to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.  

Designed to be taught over 28 weeks, the course covers 79 topics that range from early African kingdoms to how Jim Crow laws impacted African Americans after Reconstruction to the civil rights movement and modern Black American’s contributions.

Media outlets in the state are reporting that the only official notice of the decision so far appears to be this email, sent to some school administrators at 8:01 a.m. Saturday:

The Arkansas Times reported Sunday: “The College Board piloted this new offering at high schools across the country, including in Jonesboro and Little Rock, during the 2022-2023 school year. An expanded pilot of the course is on offer on more campuses nationwide for the 2023-2024 academic year, with multiple campuses in Arkansas fielding a class or two. Students able to take an AP test to qualify for college credit in the course for the first time in May of 2024.

It remains unclear what the effects will be from the Arkansas Department of Education’s move to cut the course from its list of recognized credits. And as of Sunday, no official explanation was available for why the decision was made, or by whom.”

According to a local historian and public education watchdog Jim Ross, a frequent contributor to the Arkansas Times, public school administrators had been told one reason the class was removed from the state’s list of recognized courses was that many colleges have not yet committed to recognizing credit for the new course.

Schools that offer the class are being told there is a local credit code that will allow students to take the class but there will not be a Smart Core credit nor will the state cover the $90 cost of an end-of-year test that gives students the opportunity to qualify for college course credit.

The full impact of the state’s move is still unclear. Teachers were reportedly told they could still offer the class, but the state will not recognize it on the same level as other AP courses. The course will not count as a credit toward statewide graduation requirements, the Times also reported.

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Northwest Arkansas Equality forced to relocate Pride programs

Drag performances where minors are permitted are no longer allowed during Northwest Arkansas Pride Weekend at the Walton Center



Northwest Arkansas Pride Weekend 2019 (Photo Credit: Northwest Arkansas Equality)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The largest performing arts center in Arkansas is shutting out pride events due to the presence of drag performances Northwest Arkansas Equality announced Wednesday.

According to Northwest Arkansas Equality, Peter Lane, president and chief executive officer of the Walton Arts Center, located in Fayetteville, told the LGBTQ nonprofit, “that drag performances where minors are permitted are no longer allowed in their facilities” during pride weekend, scheduled June 24.

The Walton Arts Center’s governing boards of directors upheld the decision on May 2 during a meeting with NWA Equality’s representatives. No law or Walton Arts Center written policy prevents NWA Equality from hosting its full range of NWA Pride programming at this venue, including drag performances attended by youth the non-profit stated.

According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the city owns the Walton Arts Center but its operation is governed by an independent board. The city also owns the Fayetteville Town Center, but it is operated by the city’s tourism bureau, Experience Fayetteville, which is governed by the city’s Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The newspaper also reported that the state Legislature this session passed Senate Bill 43, which originally sought to consider drag performances as “adult-oriented” under state law. However, the bill was amended to define an “adult-oriented” performance as one “intended to appeal to the prurient interest” that includes some form of nudity or sexual activity. The adopted law makes no mention of drag performances.

Northwest Arkansas Pride is a multi-day LGBTQ advocacy celebration attracting 30,000 visitors to the region. In a press release, Richard Gathright, Director, NWA Pride and
Northwest Arkansas Equality said:

“This decision is surprising, disappointing, and inconsistent. Recent and future public programming selected by the Walton Arts Center features actors performing in drag and permits minors to attend. This includes The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tootsie, the musical, during WAC’s most recent season. Hairspray is part of WAC’s upcoming Broadway Series sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

The Walton Arts Center’s mission includes “connecting and engaging people through inspiring arts experiences.” Further, they have a public-facing policy stating parents are the only ones qualified to determine what is appropriate for their child to view. NWA Equality shares their interest in accurately communicating programming to parents.

As a result of the Walton Arts Center’s censorship of Queer performance art, NWA Equality is pausing its partnership with the WAC and the rental of its locally tax-supported facilities. The NWA Pride Youth Zone will move to the Fayetteville Town Center. The event will occur from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 24, in conjunction with the NWA Pride Festival and the 5 p.m. Parade on Dickson Street.”

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Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee picks anti-LGBTQ Ed Secretary

Oliva saw implementation of Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law



Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Jacob Oliva, currently the chancellor of the division of public schools for the state of Florida, will replace former Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointee Johnny Key as the head of the Arkansas Education Department (Photo Credit: Twitter)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Thursday she picked a senior Florida Department of Education official to be Arkansas Education secretary.

In a press conference, the incoming Republican governor said that Jacob Oliva, currently the chancellor of the division of public schools for the state of Florida, will replace former Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s appointee Johnny Key as the head of the Arkansas Education Department. Oliva saw implementation of Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Sanders told reporters she intends to work in partnership with the State Board of Education to appoint Oliva to serve in a dual role as the department secretary and Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The appointment suggests Sanders may emulate in Arkansas the education agenda of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading contender of the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, WUSF Public Media in South-Florida noted.

Sanders’ announcement cited Oliva’s work implementing “DeSantis’ parental rights policies and bold education reforms.”

“Education is the foundation for success, and, with my nominee for Secretary of Education and Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jacob Oliva, we are ready to transform Arkansas education with bold reforms that will empower every kid to succeed,” Sanders said.

The governor-elect also cited her Arkansas LEARNS plan, introduced during her campaign.

“Through my Arkansas LEARNS plan, we will expand access to quality education for every kid growing up in our state, empower parents, not government bureaucrats, and prepare students for the workforce, not government dependency, so everyone has a shot at a better life right here in Arkansas,” Sanders said.

Huckabee-Sanders, who formerly was a White House Press Secretary under former President Trump has a lengthy anti-LGBTQ+ record and has a documented history of spreading misformation.

Huckabee-Sanders is the eldest daughter of another former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who held office from 1996 to 2007 and was well known for his anti-LGBTQ+ positions.

The elder Huckabee has been a staunch opponent of LGBTQ equality, dating back to when he first burst onto the public scene in the 1990s and declared that “we should isolate the carriers” of HIV and that HIV/AIDS research received “an unfair share of federal dollars.”

The former governor is on the record for opposing marriage equality, supports the dangerous practise of “conversion therapy,” opposed allowing LGBTQ Americans to adopt children, because “children aren’t puppies” and has argued against local ordinances that would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination.

His daughter as White House Press Secretary defended Trump’s tweeted ban of transgender military members: “This is a very expensive and disruptive policy and based on consultations he’s had with his national security team came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and cohesion and made the decision based on that… it is based on a military decision.”

She also defended the Trump administration’s support of LGBTQ discrimination, including fighting to the Supreme Court to deny service to LGBTQ customers.

In a White House Press briefing Sanders was asked: “The lawyer for the solicitor general’s office for the administration said today in the Supreme Court if it would be legal, possible for a baker to put a sign in his window saying we don’t bake cakes for gay weddings. Does the president agree that that would be OK?” 

She answered stating: ”The president certainly supports religious liberty and that’s something he talked about during the campaign and has upheld since taking office.” When pressed on whether that included support for signs that deny service to gay people, Sanders responded, “I believe that would include that.”

She has also, like her father, framed marriage equality and other social matters as an “attack” on “values”: “The unilateral truce on social issues within the GOP is bad for our party and wrong for our country—our core values are under attack, and we will stand for those who stand for what’s right,” she said in a statement.

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Arkansas school board debate includes ‘death to LGBT’ remarks

One member of the audience during public comments stood at the podium and insisted that LGBTQ people deserved a ‘biblical’ fate of death



Students gather in front of Conway High School Oct 10, 2022 for a mass prayer session (Photo Credit: Conway School District/Facebook)

CONWAY, Ar. – An already tense and contentious Conway School District board meeting Tuesday, that was set to discuss new policies banning transgender students from restrooms and accommodations on overnight field/sport team trips aligning with their gender identity, exploded when one member of the audience during public comments stood at the podium and insisted that LGBTQ+ people deserved a ‘biblical’ fate of death.

“God gave them over to a depraved mind so that they do what they should not be doing,” the gray-haired man says in a video clip recorded by a meeting attendee. “They invent ways of doing evil. But let me remind you that those who do such things deserve death,” the gray haired man read from his notes. “The LGBT community, not only continues to do these very things, but also approves of those who practice them,” he added.

@layalaine If you thought this was a sermon at church, you’d be wrong. These were the words the Conway school board allowed to be spoken tonight. This man spoke right before a sophomore from Conway high who is a transgender student. He said, “let me remind you that those who do such things deserve d€@th.” He said those who do such things DESERVE D€@TH and the school board sat there and did NOTHING. CPSD should be ashamed. #trans #transgender #arkansas #conway #schoolboard #transrights #gender ♬ original sound – Layalaine

Reaction to the speaker was met with booing and rude noises from some in attendance who supported the LGBTQ+ students to clapping and cheering from those in the audience agreeing with the man’s viewpoints.

KTHV CBS 11 reported that after the heated public debate and comments the board voted to implement the bathroom restrictions and also same-gender guidance for overnight hotel room assignments “based on a student’s sex assigned at birth.”

Republican State Senator Jason Rapert, who represents the local area which includes parts of Faulkner and Perry Counties of which Conway is Faulkner county seat, told KTHV; “For the first time in my entire representation in the Arkansas Senate have I ever felt led to come and speak at a school board meeting. I am proud of the school board members,” he said.

In addition to the bathroom and field/sport team trip restrictions, the board voted to ban two books: the anthology Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin and the young-adult novel Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, the Arkansas Times reported. The books were deemed inappropriate because of their LGBTQ+-related content.

A Conway School District committee said two award-winning books with LGBTQ themes should stay in the library, but school board members banned the books anyway.

But there are still gray areas after the board vote; this included no clear answer for whether any accommodations will be made for transgender students who need to use the bathroom.

There were also still questions on how Title IX, rules against discrimination based on sex, may come into play which could leave the school district open to a lawsuit over the newly enacted polices.


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Wal-Mart founder’s family sets up $1M fund for LGBTQ groups in Arkansas

“Our state is in a moment of reflection where each of us must send a message of acceptance to the LGBTQ community- ‘you belong here.’”



Typical Wal-Mart storefront via Wal-Mart Twitter

BENTONVILLE, AR. – In an announcement made Thursday by the Alice L. Walton Foundation, named for the daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam and his wife Helen Walton, family members working through the foundation are launching a $1 million fund for groups assisting LGBTQ people in the retail giant’s home state of Arkansas.

“Organizations from across our state are leading the efforts needed to build a sense of community,” said Alice Walton. “Let’s support this important work that ensures everyone in Arkansas can live their lives with equity and dignity.”

The $1 million fund will distribute grants of $25,000 and above for Arkansas-based organizations that provide critical services to the LGBTQ community. National entities with a local presence, established in-state partnerships and strong community relationships will also qualify.

“Our state is in a moment of reflection where each of us must send a message of acceptance to the LGBTQ community that says – ‘you belong here,’” said Olivia and Tom Walton in a statement. “It is also a time for action by recognizing LGBTQ Arkansans face growing challenges that need community-driven solutions.”

“This fund will allow LGBTQ-serving nonprofits in our state to expand their impact on communities and help Arkansans pull together to build a more welcoming and supportive environment for us all,” said Heather Larkin, president of Arkansas Community Foundation.

The initiative was launched following a legislative session in Arkansas that was marked by new laws restricting the rights of transgender people. The state is being sued over one of those measures, which bans gender confirming treatments for transgender youth. Unless blocked by a federal judge, the ban will take effect July 28, The Associated Press reported.

Reacting to the announcement Adrienne Collins from Central Arkansas Pride said,

“There are many organizations eager to stand up for a more inclusive, accepting environment for all who live in and visit our state. We are committed to showing up every day to ensure Arkansas’ LGBTQ community has the support needed to thrive.”

The grant selection committee will include leadership and representation from the LGBTQ community. Organizations interested in learning more about the fund can visit


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