Tess Vrbin

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.

A majority of the books being challenged in school and community libraries are written by authors who are people of color, LGBTQ, Black and Indigenous, and feature characters from marginalized groups. (Getty Images)

Crawford County parents sue library system over relocation of LGBTQ+ children’s books

By: - May 26, 2023

Three Crawford County parents have sued the county judge, quorum court, library board and interim library director, alleging “unlawful censorship of materials,” specifically children’s books with LGBTQ+ topics, in the county’s five library branches. Rebecka Virden, Nina Prater, Samantha Rowlett and their minor children are all Crawford County residents and library patrons, according to the […]

17 plaintiffs plan to challenge Arkansas’ library obscenity law

By: - May 25, 2023

The Central Arkansas Library System and 16 other plaintiffs plan to sue the state of Arkansas over two sections of a new law that changes how libraries handle material that some consider “obscene.” The CALS board of directors voted Thursday to file a federal lawsuit challenging the portions of Act 372 of 2023 that alter […]

UPDATED: Arkansas venue’s CEO explains concerns about youth-focused Pride events

By: - May 24, 2023

This article has been updated to include new comments from Northwest Arkansas Pride director Richard Gathright.  Walton Arts Center leadership says adults were not going to be allowed in one of the youth-focused areas at Northwest Arkansas Pride this year, citing this as a reason the nonprofit behind June’s LGBTQ+ festivities decided to move the […]

Walton Arts Center board resignations reach 9 after CEO nixes drag events aimed at minors

By: - May 23, 2023

Two more members of the Walton Arts Center board of directors have resigned, leaving just over a majority of the board in place after seven members resigned last week. Six of the seven who resigned Friday did so as a joint protest against the arts center’s decision not to host drag events aimed at minors […]

Saline County judge: Library director’s statements cause “high degree of concern”

By: - May 22, 2023

BENTON — The Saline County Library Board on Monday delayed a vote on a resolution that would give the county judge power to relocate or remove controversial books from youth sections in the county’s two libraries. The meeting became heated at times, with members of the public and County Judge Matt Brumley weighing in on […]

Walton Arts Center board members resign after CEO declines to host drag events aimed at minors

By: - May 19, 2023

Six members of the Walton Arts Center Board of Directors announced their resignations Friday afternoon in light of the center’s decision not to host drag events for minors during Northwest Arkansas Pride celebrations next month. “After careful consideration, we are compelled by our consciences to make this decision,” board secretary and treasurer Casey Hamaker wrote […]

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin greets Big Country Chateau tenants (L-R) Clara Edmonston, Delores McDaniel and Jay Richard at a Jan. 26, 2023, tenants' rally in front of Little Rock City Hall. (Photo by Sonny Albarado)

Foreclosure order delays completion of Little Rock court case against troubled housing complex

By: - May 18, 2023

A Little Rock apartment complex with a history of code violations is facing a foreclosure order in addition to city and state legal action, Deputy City Attorney Alan Jones said Thursday in city environmental court. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Freddie Mac, owns Big Country Chateau’s mortgage. It filed a foreclosure […]

Arkansas’ Griffin, other GOP AGs decry Biden’s proposed transgender student athlete rule

By: - May 17, 2023

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin and chief legal officers in 18 other states have opposed President Joe Biden’s proposed rule that would allow transgender students at public schools to participate in sports according to their gender identities. Griffin said in a Monday letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that “several biological males who identify as […]

At the intersection of State and Church streets in Salem, Oregon. (Getty Images)

Southwest Arkansas district asked to stop encouraging Christianity in public schools

By: - May 16, 2023

A national nonprofit that advocates for the separation of church and state asked a Southwest Arkansas school district on Tuesday to stop distributing Bibles at an elementary school and leading students in prayer, according to a Tuesday news release. The Freedom From Religion Foundation asked the Prescott School District to “quit imposing Christianity on elementary […]

A billboard battle is brewing in Saline County between library supporters, opponents

By: - May 15, 2023

A group led by Saline County residents who oppose the relocation or removal of certain books from local libraries plans to rent a billboard in Benton to counter a new sign connected to Saline County Republicans that decries “X-rated library books.” Scott Gray of the Saline County Republican Committee posted photos of the billboard, located […]

Northwest Arkansas Pride relocates events after Walton Arts Center declines drag shows for minors

By: - May 10, 2023

The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville has declined to continue hosting youth events featuring drag performers during the final weekend of June, which is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Equality announced Wednesday in a press release that the arts center decided not to host “content-appropriate drag story time” or “drag shows suitable for […]

Arkansas panel rejects appeals from complainants against Bureau of Legislative Research

By: - May 8, 2023

The Arkansas Legislative Council’s executive subcommittee voted to affirm the findings of an investigation into the Bureau of Legislative Research on Monday after two employees filed complaints, though no details about the complaints were made public. The eight-member subcommittee heard testimony in two executive sessions from each complainant and from Bureau Director Marty Garrity. After […]