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Dive Brief:

  • The State University System of Florida’s board is considering a rule that would prevent transgender students and employees from using bathrooms that align with their gender identities. 
  • If the draft regulation is passed, the system’s 12 institutions would have to offer men’s, women’s and unisex restrooms and changing areas to be used by individuals based on their sex assigned at birth. The proposal would let individual universities determine disciplinary actions against employees who violate the rule.
  • A Florida law passed in May prompted the proposal, as it largely bans people from using bathrooms in public buildings that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth. The university board is expected to vote on the draft regulation in November, after it has been posted for public review.

Dive Insight:

The board advanced the proposal during a Wednesday meeting over the objections of just one member. Amanda Phalin, who is also a business professor at the University of Florida, expressed concern over the regulation but acknowledged that state law required the board to pass it.

“However, I believe it is also my duty to point out that, in places where similar laws have been implemented, there has been an increase in harassment of people who were using or attempting to use the restroom,” she said, offering to send studies backing that assertion to her fellow board members. 

Citing fear over confrontations, almost 60% of transgender people said they avoided using public bathrooms, according to a 2015 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality. Data from a second survey conducted by the center in 2022 is expected to be published this year

During this week’s meeting, Phalin pushed for the system’s universities to collect data about any harassment stemming from the change.

Under Florida law, the board has until Jan. 1 to develop rules to enforce the law, and colleges within the system must certify their compliance with the new regulations by April 1.

The Florida College System passed a similar regulation in August, though it went further by specifying the punishments for rulebreakers. Under that rule, employees must be fired if they use bathrooms that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth more than once.