‘It feels like a no-win situation’: Parents of transgender students struggle to navigate new Florida laws

A new Florida law requires students and staff to use restrooms that align with their sex assigned at birth
Parents of trans kids reconsider school choices in wake of new Florida laws
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 10:13 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Florida schools and parents are navigating a new school year with a series of new laws, particularly laws that apply to students who are transgender.

A new law requires students and staff to use restrooms that align with their sex assigned at birth. That was one of the laws that were top of mind when parent Melinda Stanwood was deciding where her transgender high school freshman was going to school.

“There’s been a lot of confusion,” Stanwood said. “It feels like a no-win situation for these kids.”

She said the new law puts transgender kids in a difficult position.

“They risk either getting in trouble if they go into the wrong restroom under this new law or they risk outing themselves involuntarily,” Stanwood said.

Leon County Schools said they’ve been getting ready for these laws and can accommodate students.

“All of our sites provide accommodations for students to use a single-occupancy restroom if they need it,” Leon County Schools Director of Policy Wallace Knight said.

Another new law requires parent permission for Florida schools to address students by any name that isn’t their birth name. Many schools have a form, but how it’s handled varies from district to district, with some requiring it for any nickname, even a shortened version of a student’s birth name.

“While we’re flying the plane, we are also building it to ensure that we are giving our students the best environment to learn in,” Knight said.

Stanwood says she filled out the form so her son’s teachers can use his preferred name, but his birth name still appears in the student’s online profile.

But the new law still leaves questions.

“I don’t even know how pronouns are handled actually at this point. There’s not a lot of clarity,” Stanwood said.

Even with the parent’s permission, Florida law doesn’t require teachers and staff to use preferred pronouns. Stanwood says students are often referred to by their last name in those cases.

The State Board of Education plans to create similar restroom guidelines for Florida’s public colleges during its meeting in Naples Wednesday.