On February 23, a student-led walkout will mark the largest protest to date of Florida universities sharing data on trans health care services with the state government.
The 12 universities in Florida’s public higher-education system received a memo dated January 11 from the office of Governor Ron DeSantis. It requested they fill out an accompanying survey about the number of people who had sought or received gender-affirming treatments at student health care facilities.
The universities were asked for data on services such as hormone treatments and gender-affirming surgeries, as well as the number of people diagnosed under ICD-10 Code F64, the World Health Organization classification for gender identity disorder. They were further asked to specify the ages of everyone who sought or received care, including those under 18.
“Like DEI and CRT, radical gender ideology has supplanted academics at many institutions of higher education,” DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin told Filter—referring to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and to teaching critical race theory, both of which the Republican governor is currently working to remove from public higher-education institutions as he eyes a 2024 presidential run.
“We are committed to fully understanding the amount of public funding that is going toward such non-academic pursuits to best assess how to get our colleges and universities refocused on education and truth.”
Though the governor’s office and university officials have framed compliance as an “obligation,” there is no clear evidence that this is the case.
The universities were asked to submit the data by February 10. At least six have done so; students attending those universities are the ones organizing the Stand for Freedom walkout. None had provided Filter with comment as of press time.
“[DeSantis] says we are being indoctrinated by wokeness, but we say he is using us in his narrative, and destroying our schools to achieve his vision,” Stand for Freedom organizers wrote in a public call to action. “We demand the DeSantis administration restore DEI initiatives, stop its attack on LGBTQ+ students and end his abuse of power.” Several elected officials and advocacy groups have pledged support.
While the January survey requested only HIPAA-compliant data—not personal medical records or otherwise identifying information—this is not necessarily sufficient to protect patients’ privacy. In many cases, the number of people who sought or received a given form of treatment at a given university, within a given timeframe, is likely to be relatively small. Some university responses indicated that a single individual had accessed the service in question.
Though the governor’s office and university officials alike have framed compliance as an “obligation” publicly funded institutions have to the state, no clear evidence has emerged that the schools are actually required to do so by law.
The governor’s request fits a larger agenda that has seen Florida ban gender-affirming care for minors and ban trans student athletes from female competitions in a span of just a few months. Page Dukes, communications associate at the Southern Center for Human Rights, told Filter that the systematic dismantling of resources is “especially [devastating for trans people] of limited means, by prohibiting Medicaid coverage for such treatments as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery.”
That school administrators would be ideologically aligned with DeSantis didn’t necessarily come as a surprise—on January 18, the Florida College System presidents publicly denounced DEI and CRT.
“Compassionate, evidence-driven [student health care] saves lives and should be thoughtfully supported,” Dukes said. “Not unnecessarily surveilled.”
Photograph of Governor DeSantis via Florida State Congressman Carlos A. Jimenez