Subsection 3 stigmatizes Florida’s transgender and nonbinary teachers for being themselves at work.
TALLAHASSEE — Today, three Florida educators filed a lawsuit challenging Florida Statute § 1000.071(3) (2023) (“Subsection 3”), an anti-LGBTQ+ statute that targets Florida’s transgender and nonbinary teachers for being themselves at work. By barring transgender and nonbinary teachers from using titles and pronouns that express their gender identities and by threatening to decertify and fire teachers who do so, Subsection 3 clearly and unlawfully discriminates based on sex and restrains their speech, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and civil rights statutes.
In their complaint, plaintiffs Katie Wood, Jane Doe, and AV Schwandes are asking for an injunction preventing Florida’s enforcement of Subsection 3. Separately, Ms. Wood and Ms. Doe are requesting an injunction prohibiting their employers from enforcing Subsection 3, and Mx. Schwandes is also demanding damages from their employer, who fired them for violating Subsection 3.
Florida enacted Subsection 3 to attack the existence of LGBTQ+ people, sending the state-sanctioned, inflammatory, and false message that transgender and nonbinary people and their identities are inherently dangerous to children. Many teachers have already left their careers, the profession, and the state in response to discriminatory laws Florida passed to push LGBTQ+ people out of public life and erase their existence. This is especially true for transgender and nonbinary children and adults in all aspects of life, including sports, books, entertainment, health care, and even restrooms.
“There is no American right more fundamental than freedom of expression and protection from the government that weaponizes their disagreements on that expression. Subsection 3 violates both of these,” says plaintiff Katie Wood. “I am a transgender teacher, but I am a human being first. As a human being living in America, I demand to be treated with fairness and equity at work. Those who support and enforce this law are trying to take my voice away and bury my existence. But they will not. I can help hold Florida lawmakers accountable in a court of law. I will not be swept under the rug, I will not be silenced, and I will not budge for my Constitutional rights.”
“I lost my job, and maybe my career, because Florida lawmakers don't want maturing young adults to know that I exist. As a high school teacher, I should not have to pretend to be someone I'm not simply because I don’t ascribe to someone else’s rigid ideas of gender,” says plaintiff AV Schwandes. “Tolerance is a two-way street. Just as I respect the faith-based beliefs of others, my civil rights need to be respected because I am an American, and I do exist.”
The plaintiffs in Wood et al. v. Florida Department of Education et al. are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Legal Counsel, and Altshuler Berzon, LLP.
“Educators serve their students and communities best when working in safe spaces where they are respected, valued, and allowed to be themselves. Stigmatizing trans and nonbinary people not only undermines educators but also harms and isolates all students. Teaching at a public school shouldn’t mean denying or contradicting core beliefs or, most importantly, losing oneself entirely. These unlawful statutes have distracted and harmed teachers who want to teach. Florida has only an invidious basis, not an exceedingly persuasive or rational one, for this discrimination,” said plaintiffs’ attorneys on today’s filing.
The complaint can be found here.