Amid all the Republican moaning about “cancel culture,” they sure do a lot of cancellation, as even a cursory view of the legislative agenda illustrates.
See the House Education Committee this morning:
It includes HB 1816 by Rep. Aaron Pilkington that specifies which flags schools may fly (they MUST fly a U.S. and state flag and otherwise may only fly a school or county flag, lest some decide to fly a rainbow flag or something, the bill says.) THE BILL PASSED.
More pernicious is HB 1592 by Rep. Mark Lowery, dishonestly labeled a “student protection act.” It’s more anti-abortion legislation, prohibiting any connection, even unpaid, between a school and an agency or health professional who might refer a girl for an abortion or provide one. It targets the possibility of Planned Parenthood talking to students about sex education, birth control and sexual issues. There’s no good reason Planned Parenthood should be allowed in schools because it also provides abortion, Jerry Cox said in supporting the legislation. Lowery called it an “insidious practice.” In response to a question, he said an employee of Planned Parenthood, if a parent in the school, couldn’t volunteer to help in the school. Rep. Fred Love (D-Little Rock) said it was harmful to children to take sex education out of the schools. THE BILL PASSED.
HB 1831 (Berry, with assistance from AG Rutledge) requires schools to play the National Anthem daily and at every sporting event (at least once if multiple events on the same day). Sanctioned versions and performers only. It didn’t come up today.
HB 1830 (Dotson) to create religious free speech zones in schools and a way for proselytizing to occur in school events by students speaking “voluntarily.” Opponents said it would prevent teachers from stopping hateful speech by students. THE BILL PASSED.
HB 1701 (the abominable Mary Bentley) to require the teaching of creationism K-12. THE BILL PASSED.
HB 1749 (Bentley again) to make it illegal for schools to refer to transgender children by their real names and sex. She amended the bill to protect this cruel treatment of children by cloaking it as First Amendment protection of freedom of religion and saying a teacher may not be required to refer to a student by a preferred pronoun or title but the student may use the name and gender on that year’s registration form (though the bill doesn’t currently say this). She pitched the bill as teacher relief and protection. She claims students are changing their names two or three times a year, stressing out teachers who fear using an incorrect pronoun. She cited an Ohio case of a college professor who couldn’t be punished for refusing to use a pronoun fitting a student. The case didn’t say the teacher could use a different name. Bentley claimed “numerous” teachers in her rural school district had concerns about this issue. She agreed with questioning by Rep. Megan Godfrey that the bill would protect teachers who incorrectly misgendered students. Godfrey contends a federal case supports that. That is an oversimplification of the Ohio case. Rep. Reginald Murdock disputed whether teachers were concerned about this. Not one has come to him, he said. Opponents said the bill was insensitive and harmful and would create a hostile classroom environment. It also violated Title IX of federal law, a transgender lawyer said. Rep. Fred Love said the bill didn’t respect students and protected intentional disrespect of them by teachers. A tearful Rep. Megan Godfrey, who’s been a teacher, will embolden teachers to mistreat students. THE BILL PASSED. 11-6 roll call vote.
Bottom line: The Arkansas legislature WILL decide what speech is acceptable and what is not.
PS: over in Senate committee today, Trent Garner has a bill to prohibit state business with entities that “promote divisive concepts.” Which Garner knows when he sees them.