Trans college staffers in Florida could be fired for using the restroom under new rule

Joe Raedle

The Florida Board of Education approved a rule Wednesday mandating tough disciplinary procedures for college staff who violate a new state law regulating bathroom use.

The law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, requires school staff and students from kindergarten through college to use the bathrooms and changing facilities that match their assigned sexes at birth, making it illegal for transgender people to use facilities that align with their gender identities. The law took effect July 1.

The rule goes beyond the state law by specifically mandating how colleges discipline staff who violate the law; requiring colleges to investigate alleged violations and report them to the Florida Department of Education; and applying the law to university student housing.

Violators of the law, according to the rule, face “a progressive discipline process that includes verbal warnings, written reprimands, suspension without pay, and termination.” A second offense mandates termination.

The board also approved another rule Wednesday that requires K-12 private schools to ensure their compliance with the law as part of an annual survey and discipline staff found in violation in accordance with Florida professional conduct codes, which could result in the suspension or revocation of their teaching license.

Florida Board of Education Chair Ben Gibson said during the board’s Wednesday meeting in Naples that the new state law required the board to develop such rules.

Many people spoke during the board’s meeting, with the most speaking against the new education rules.

Former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is now a senior policy adviser at Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the rules “substantially exceed the scope” of the bathroom law by including college dormitories, requiring that staff be fired after a second offense and by mandating taxpayer-funded investigations into restroom use in the Florida College System.

“What is a trans person supposed to do if they need to use the restroom and there’s no unisex facility available?” Smith said at Wednesday’s meeting, adding that there isn’t a unisex facility in Collier County Public Schools, the district in which the board met. “They’re going to face termination. They’re going to be rooted out of the Florida College System.”

Jordan Beutel described himself as a fourth-generation educator, but he said he left education due to the restrictions the state has put on trans teachers.

“As a trans man, this rule would mandate me to use a women’s restroom or be subject to termination without the ability to fight for my rights,” he said during the meeting. “This rule is a direct attack on my diversity at a higher education level and will create witch hunts.”

Grazie Pozo Christie, a board of education member and radiologist, said that, though she recognized the “angst” in many of the commenters’ voices, “there is a historically, cross-culturally accurate reason why males and females use different spaces in those intimate moments.”

“This is not something that, as a culture, we should ditch because of new ideologies that are challenging the science of male and female, which doesn’t change because biology doesn’t change,” Christie said at Wednesday’s meeting.

The board’s rules are part of a larger effort by DeSantis’ administration to restrict the discussion of LGBTQ topics in schools and restrict trans people’s rights. In May, DeSantis signed a law banning transition-related care for minors and another expanding what critics have called the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The second expands the Parental Rights in Education act, which DeSantis signed in March 2022. Initially, the measure prohibited “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The expanded law prohibits such instruction from prekindergarten through eighth grade. The bill applies to both public and charter schools.

In January, DeSantis’ administration requested the health information of trans students at public universities who have sought or received transition-related medical care, and in 2021, he signed a bill that bans trans student athletes from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identities.

This article was originally published on