Florida’s State Board of Education has approved new penalties to enforce the state’s anti-transgender bathroom law.
Signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also running for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024, Florida’s House Bill 1521 went into effect in July. It requires people to use bathroom and changing facilities that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth and applies to public schools, universities, parks, prisons, and other government buildings but not to businesses and healthcare facilities. DeSantis has said the law will ensure women’s safety, based on the myth that trans people are violent sexual predators who prey on innocent women and children.
Students who speak out for LGBTQ+ rights say they face retaliation from hostile school administrations determined to silence them.
As The Hill reports, on Wednesday the DeSantis-appointed State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a proposal outlining disciplinary measures for students and employees at state colleges who violate the law. The new rule requires the 28 public community and state colleges in the state’s college system, which is separate from the Florida university system, to update their student and employee codes of conduct to reflect the anti-trans law and establish disciplinary procedures for employees by April 1.
“Disciplinary actions may utilize a progressive discipline process that includes verbal warnings, written reprimands, suspension without pay, and termination,” the proposal states. “The disciplinary action taken should be based on the specific circumstances of the offense; however, a second documented offense must result in a termination.”
Schools are not required to provide unisex restrooms, and the requirements also apply to student housing. As The Hill notes, this will result in transgender and nonbinary students living in college dorms being unable to use restrooms that align with their gender identity.
The rule was met with opposition during the public comment period at Wednesday’s meeting. The mother of a transgender teenager said that the slate of anti-trans laws signed by DeSantisthis year has made her child fear for their life. A rising high school senior, they have opted not to apply to any colleges in Florida as a result.
Former Florida state Representative and current policy advisor at Equality Florida Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is running for state senate, said that the “new level of fear and intimidation” in the state has one goal: “to root transgender people out of the Florida College System.”
“It is death by a million cuts, where you just created such a toxic and hostile environment for trans people in our state that they no longer are going to want to call Florida home,” Smith told The Hill. “They’re just going to leave.”