Arkansas governor signs executive order prioritizing state law over new Title IX rule

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
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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)

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.”

The post Arkansas governor signs executive order prioritizing state law over new Title IX rule appeared first on Arkansas Advocate.