Florida education officials have approved stricter penalties against state college employees who violate a new law that prohibits them and students from using restrooms or changing facilities for a gender other than the one assigned at birth. The move by the state board of education has faced criticism from LGBTQ advocates who see it as an attempt to erase their presence in Florida schools and society. Under the new rules, staff and faculty can be fired for using a restroom that does not correspond to their gender assigned at birth. They may also face verbal and written warnings, suspension without pay, and eventual termination for repeat offenses.
The new rule also mandates that institutions must investigate each complaint regarding violations and establish a procedure for such investigations. Violations must be documented, including the names of the person who violated the rule and the person who reported the violation, along with the circumstances to establish a violation. The restrictions apply not only to restrooms but also to college-run student housing. However, colleges have the option of providing a single-occupancy, unisex restroom or changing facility. Florida’s college system operates separately from the state’s university system, with 28 public community and state colleges.
The new rule stems from a law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in May, which has also implemented restrictions on gender-affirming treatments for minors and pronoun usage in schools. DeSantis has been signing controversial bills aimed at curtailing LGBTQ rights, including one that prevents transgender children from receiving gender-affirming treatments and another that restricts the pronouns that can be used in public schools. Furthermore, sexual orientation and gender identity are prohibited from being taught in Florida schools through eighth grade. The law enacted by the state Board of Education additionally prohibits transgender individuals from using restrooms or changing rooms that align with their gender identity in government buildings.