On Wednesday, the Florida State Board of Education voted to implement new restrictions on restroom use at college campuses in the state, forcing transgender faculty, staff and students to use facilities that do not correspond to their gender identity.
The rules were passed in response to a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in May, House Bill 1521, which mandated that the board create standards requiring students and employees to use restrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth.
All seven members of the Board of Education, who voted unanimously in favor of the new rules, are appointees of DeSantis.
Notably, the board’s measures go beyond what was required. The law mandates that employees in violation of restroom rules be “subject[ed] to discipline,” but doesn’t say that they should be fired after a certain number of violations.
The board, meanwhile, created rules that allow for a “progressive discipline process that includes verbal warnings, written reprimands, suspension without pay, and termination.” Each college will be required to implement its own process by April of next year. But members of the board also stated that a transgender employee must be fired after the second “offense” of entering a restroom the state has deemed improper for their use.
Florida’s college system is separate from its university system, which has yet to establish its own rules based on the new law. Rules dictating the consequences for trans students who are found in violation of the law are currently unclear.
Public comment was allowed at the hearing on Wednesday where the vote took place, with almost all speakers opposing the new rules, The Hill reported. One mother who participated in the comment period indicated that her transgender child, who is graduating from high school at the end of the academic year, will not be applying to any Florida colleges because of the new rules.
LGBTQ advocates have condemned the new restrictions.
“The DeSantis administration has once again weaponized government against the LGBTQ community,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, senior policy advisor for Equality Florida. “The Florida State Board of Education imposed new attacks on transgender educators, administrators and students that go far beyond the scope of the anti-trans bathroom law.”
Guillermo Smith added:
These threats of bathroom investigations, forced firing of personnel and restrictions on dormitories in the Florida College System will only worsen the current culture of fear and intimidation against the transgender community. Everyone deserves the right to use the restroom facilities where they feel safe — including transgender Floridians. In our history, government attempts to create a system of second-class citizens by restricting access to restrooms or water fountains have failed. They were defeated before and will be defeated again.
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