Florida officials temporarily barred a transgender student from participating in any of her high school’s sports teams, saying the teenager violated state law by playing on the girls volleyball team.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the unnamed student’s school, Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, officials from the Florida High School Athletic Association said the trans teenager was “declared ineligible to represent any member school” and therefore barred from competing on any school sports team for just under a year.
Officials also placed the South Florida high school on probation for 11 months, fined it $16,500 and mandated that its staff undergo a series of compliance trainings.
The state’s penalties come just a few weeks after the high school’s principal and several other school officials were reassigned after county officials opened an investigation into “allegations of improper student participation in sports,” flagged by an anonymous tipster.
A spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools confirmed Wednesday that the district received the Florida High School Athletic Association’s letter and that its investigation into the matter is ongoing.
Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group which is serving as the trans student’s legal representation, condemned the state’s action’s in a statement Tuesday.
“Today’s determination by the Florida High School Athletics Association does not change the fact that the law preventing transgender girls from playing sports with their peers is unconstitutionally rooted in anti-transgender bias, and the Association’s claim to ensure equal opportunities for student athletes rings hollow,” Jason Starr, a litigation strategist at the HRC, said in the statement. “The reckless indifference to the wellbeing of our client and her family, and all transgender students across the State, will not be ignored.”
Through the HRC, the trans student and her parents, Jessica and Gary Norton, declined to comment. The student’s mother did, however, issue a statement last week suggesting county officials outed her daughter by launching the investigation.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, signed a law in 2021 barring trans girls and women from competing on female sports teams in public schools. About half of the country’s states have similar laws restricting trans athletes’ ability to participate in school sports. A representative for the Florida governor’s office directed NBC News’ request for comment to the state’s Education Department.
The department did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment, but in a social media post Tuesday, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. commended the association’s decision to penalize the high school and the trans athlete and the state law that led to those actions.
“Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis, Florida passed legislation to protect girls’ sports and we will not tolerate any school that violates this law,” he said in a post on X. “We applaud the swift action taken by the @FHSAA to ensure there are serious consequences for this illegal behavior.”
The trans student at the center of Monarch High School’s sports controversy and her parents filed a suit over the sports law in 2021 against DeSantis, the Broward County School Board and several other Florida officials. The family argued that the state law violated Title IX, a landmark civil rights law that prevents sex-based discrimination at both public and private schools that receive funding from the federal government. A federal judge denied the family’s challenge to the law last month.