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Florida Considers Tough Consequences for College Staff Who Break Bathroom Law


The Florida State Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve new rules at state colleges for transgender employees and students that are intended to comply with a law, passed in May, restricting access to bathrooms.

Colleges will be forced to fire employees who twice use a bathroom other than the one assigned to their sex at birth, despite being asked to leave.

And bathroom restrictions also now apply to student housing operated by the colleges.

“Bathroom spaces are very intimate and private,” said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiologist, who serves on the state board and voted for approval, adding, “This is not something that as a culture we should ditch.”

The new regulations show that colleges, like K-12 schools, may be caught in the bureaucracy required to enforce them.

The state college system serves 650,000 students on a network of 28 regional campuses.

It is operated separately from the State University System of Florida, which runs the 12 flagship campuses, including the University of Florida and Florida State.

The Board of Education’s new rules go beyond the state bathroom law. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, signed that bill in May and has made restricting transgender rights a signature issue.

The legislation states that employees who break the bathroom rule can be found in violation of professional standards and “are subject to discipline” — but it does not mandate that they should be fired after two violations.

“We’re seeing in general that after laws are passed, agencies and boards are inflicting new harms,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, a senior policy adviser for Equality Florida, an L.G.B.T.Q. rights group. “They are really exceeding their authority.”

The Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All seven members of the state education board are appointed by Gov. DeSantis. The board has generally approved sweeping new regulations that codify the governor’s education agenda. It has sought to remove content on race, gender, sex and sexuality from the curriculum; to restrict books on those subjects from K-12 school libraries; and to prevent K-12 educators from asking for students’ pronouns.

The law requires each individual college to outline “disciplinary procedures” for transgender students who break bathroom regulations.

Mr. Smith said he expected that the State University System would soon pass regulations interpreting the bathroom bill in a similarly restrictive way, since that system, too, is governed by officials appointed by the governor.

A spokesman for the Board of Governors, which runs the university system, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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