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The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

Given Name Act Restricts Use of Chosen Names, Pronouns for Transgender Students

Co-sponsor argues the law will purposefully “out” students
Governor+Sanders+signs+into+law+the+Given+Name+Act%2C+HB1468+Apr.+11.+
Photo by KARK
Governor Sanders signs into law the Given Name Act, HB1468 Apr. 11.

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed Act 542 into law April 11, prohibiting teachers in Arkansas from using the preferred names and pronouns of students without acquiring parental consent if their titles differ from information otherwise listed on that student’s birth certificate. The new law that went into effect at the beginning of the school year is limited to public schools and specifically targets students under 18. 

“A faculty member, teacher, or other employee of a school, regardless of the scope of his or her official duties, shall not address… a student with a pronoun or title that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex unless the faculty member, teacher, or other employee of a school has the written permission of the… student’s parent,” the law, officially known as the Given Name Act, says.

Teachers who fail to adhere to this mandate may face legal consequences or termination. The bill also permits educators to avoid using a student’s preferred name or pronoun, even if parental permission is granted. Head Counselor Kim Williams asserted that, despite disagreements with the new policy, teachers should follow its procedure.

“I do not agree with this law. However, because it is law, we want to make sure that both our students and teachers are protected. Unfortunately, under this law, if a student identifies as a different gender or a different name than what’s on their birth certificate, teachers and staff in the building must get their parent’s permission to call that student by their chosen name or pronoun. Following this process protects the teachers in our school,”  Williams said. “But if a student is not out or if a student is not comfortable with their gender identity and disclosing it to their parent or guardian, it creates a catch-22.” 

Despite such concerns, Williams is still hopeful that students affected by this bill will be supported by inclusive teachers. 

“I would be more concerned in a less understanding environment. But at Central, we’re not going to have issues,” said Williams. “The majority of our teachers are very inclusive, very understanding, and willing to do whatever it takes to support our community. I wish all of our students in the state could say the same about their school.” 

Senior Jae Juarez criticized the bill and its impact on transgender students.

“I think the new law is very silly. Under this new policy, if someone named Joshua wants to be called Josh, they also have to get a consent form which is crazy, but obviously, the law deliberately targets trans kids,” Juarez said. “A lot of kids can’t get consent forms signed because they aren’t out to their parents, but they would still like to be called their chosen name at school.”

Jaurez said the law will make the lives of all transgender students more difficult, regardless of their family situation. 

“Even with supportive parents, it’s still hard to get the forms through the school’s process. And I think that’s the biggest problem, aside from the possibility of outing vulnerable students to their parents,” Juarez said. “Some people haven’t even tried to gain consent because it’s just so much work, and a lot of teachers make it seem like they don’t want to go through that process. So it’s like, why even bother, you know?”

Senior Finn Barkins echoed Juarez’s sentiment and expressed concern surrounding the cost of a legal name change. 

“A lot of people can’t just go get their name changed to be put on school documents because that costs a lot of money. Some people aren’t out to their parents and some parents aren’t supportive of a name change, so in order for us to be called our chosen names, I feel like that process should be kept simple,” 

— Barkins

Barkins also has personal experience with this issue.

“I had a chosen name, and I told the teacher. They said that because it’s not official and wasn’t on my birth certificate, they couldn’t call me that,” Barkins said. “So they just refused to call me by the correct name.”

Senior Luka Hunter also criticized the new law, citing a recent interaction with a teacher. 

“The other day, my teacher noticed that I had put Luka on a portfolio for my writing pieces. She said that because I wrote my chosen name, she had to report it, and I then had to go to the counselor and get a form. Since then, I’ve been emailed multiple times to bring back this form for consent, just to be called a name that I prefer,” said Hunter. “For the legislature to attack transgender youth over something as simple as a name is incredibly ignorant, and I definitely know that it takes away my class time. Something so easy like just calling a kid what they prefer is becoming this big ordeal, so it’s definitely upsetting.” 

While both students and staff members, despite their obligation to uphold the law, have expressed concerns about the dangers of forced outing, one of the Given Name Act’s co-sponsors in the state legislature argued the bill is accomplishing its intended purpose. 

“We potentially risk outing these vulnerable children to their parents and peers against their will,” Senator Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) said in opposition to the new law during legislative debate last spring.

“It would potentially out a student if his parents or her parents did not know about what was going on at school,” Senator Mark Johnson (R-Little Rock), the bill’s co-sponsor, said in response to Leding’s argument. 

 

https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Home/FTPDocument?path=%2FBills%2F2023R%2FPublic%2FHB1468.pdf

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Jack Baker, Print Editor
Hi! My name is Jack Baker, I'm in 12th grade, and I'm so excited to serve as the print editor this year! This will be my third year in journalism class, but my favorite subjects are history and English. I'm particularly interested in politics and modern culture. When I'm not at school, I'm usually competing in policy debate, running cross country, playing the piano, or hanging out with friends.
Sybil Curran, News Editor
This is my second year on staff and I am passionate about sharing and learning about the community and giving everyone a voice. Outside of Tiger News, I play tennis and enjoy hanging out with my friends.

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