Florida education officials on Wednesday unanimously approved harsher penalties against state college employees who violate a new law barring 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 comes as LGBTQ advocates have criticized the law as a larger effort to erase them from Florida schools and society.
Under the new rules approved Wednesday, staff and faculty at Florida colleges can be fired if they use a restroom for a gender that does not correspond with their gender assigned at birth.
Employees may also face a verbal and written warning and suspension without pay as penalty for a first offense. Colleges will be forced to fire employees after a second offense, according to the new rule’s text.
“Institutions must investigate each complaint regarding violations of (the rule) and must have an established procedure for such investigations,” the new rule text says.
The new rule also requires violations to be documented, including the name of the person who violated the rule as well as the person who asked that person to leave the restroom. The complaint must also include “the circumstances of the event sufficient to establish a violation,” according to the new rule.
The restrictions also apply to college-run student housing. Additionally, colleges have the option of providing a single-occupancy, unisex restroom or changing facility.
Florida’s college system consists of 28 public community and state colleges—and it operates as a separate entity from the state’s university system.
The law the new rule stems from was signed in May by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also cemented new restrictions on gender-affirming treatments for minors, which pronouns can be used in schools and drag shows.
DeSantis, who is currently fighting to be the Republican front-runner for president among 12 others, has signed contentious bills aimed at curtailing LGBTQ rights.
One of the bills signed into law by DeSantis prohibits transgender children from receiving gender-affirming treatments, including prescriptions that block puberty hormones or sex-reassignment surgeries. Under the law, a court could intervene to temporarily remove a child from their home if they receive gender-affirming treatments or procedures, and it treats such health care options, which are supported by the American Medical Association, the same as it would a case of child abuse.
Under a provision DeSantis signed into law, teachers, faculty and students would be restricted from using the pronouns of their choice in public schools. That bill declares that it must be the policy of all schools that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait” and “it is false” to use a pronoun other than the sex on a person’s birth certificate. That bill also affirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be taught in schools through eighth grade, codifying a state Board of Education decision to block such topics in all K-12 grades.
The law underpinning the state Board of Education’s policies enacted Wednesday prohibits transgender people from using a bathroom or changing room that matches their gender identity while in government buildings, including in places like public schools and prisons as well as at state universities.
“A woman should not be in a locker room, having to worry about someone from the opposite sex being in their locker room,” DeSantis said previously.
The bill defines female as “a person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing eggs” and male as “a person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing sperm.”