Republican leaders continue to oppose critical race theory in a crusade against them. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Friday a bill to limit how race-related topics can be taught in schools or workplace training.
The law was immediately challenged in federal court by plaintiffs who argued that it violated the First Amendment rights.
After hours of intense debates in both chambers, the Republican-dominated House passed the measure (HB7) during the regular legislative session.
During a Friday bill-signing ceremony at Hialeah Garden’s charter school, DeSantis called critical race theory “pernicious ideology.” It is based upon the idea that racism is embedded within American society and institutions.
The governor presented the bill behind a placard reading “freedom form indoctrination.” Students flanked him with signs that showed a circular red cancel sign over the letters CRT. Three parents spoke at the event and shared examples of critical race theory in children’s school lessons.
Five plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in the federal Northern District of Florida. It seeks to stop the new law and the State Board of Education’s rule last year focused on critical race theory instruction.
“This case is a result of the Florida Legislature’s and Executive Branch’s attempts to suppress speech in Florida’s schools and workplaces through passing laws that forbid Florida’s teachers and employers form supporting concepts about race or sex with Florida’s conservative politicians disagree,” stated the lawsuit, which Sheppard filed, White, Kachergus, DeMaggio, Wilkison, P.A.
“These laws, which are viewpoint-based and unconstitutional, restrict speech in Florida by regulating speech of teachers and business owners. They violate their First Amendment Rights.”
Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee), the House Minority Leader, called it an attempt to “whitewash history” and stated that Friday was a “sad date in our state’s history.”
The law lists race-related concepts that could be considered discriminatory if taught in schools or during training.
A section of the law governing schools calls instruction discriminatory if they lead people to believe they are responsible for or should be treated differently because of past actions by people of the same race and sex.
It also prohibits instruction that causes students to feel guilt, anguish, and other psychological distress because of past actions of others of the same race or sexuality.
“Every student is important, and every student counts. We won’t categorize you based on your race. We won’t tell a kindergartener they are oppressors based on their race or what might have happened 100 years ago. DeSantis stated that no one would tell any other children that they were oppressed because of their race, prompting loud applause at Friday’s event.
DeSantis stated that the measure provides substantive protections for parents and students, which will prevent instruction from departing from state academic standards.
Andrew Spar, president and CEO of the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union, criticized the measure, arguing it was based upon a “manufactured narrative.” Spar also claimed that the law diverts attention from the real problems facing Florida’s public education system.
“We all want the best for our children, no matter where we live or look. Parents and educators want students to become independent, well-informed adults capable of thinking for themselves. Spar stated that the full and fair facts of history are part of high-quality education in a Friday statement.
“Students can learn anything if we address the 9,000 teacher vacancies projected and the more than 5,000 vacancies for support staff at our public schools,”
Employers’ training sessions are also targeted by the law based on similar factors.
A training program could be considered discriminatory if employees believe their “moral character, status, or privilege as either privileged, or oppressed” is determined by their race, color, or nationality.
Democrats argued that the measure would make businesses more vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits by disgruntled workers during the legislative session.
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez was present at the bill-signing ceremony with DeSantis. She stated that this law is the first to “end corporate wokeness” in America and criticize race theory in schools.
Manny Diaz Jr, a Hialeah Republican and the measure’s Senate sponsor, was also among the prominent Republicans accompanying the governor Friday. He was announced Thursday as DeSantis’ pick to be the next state education commissioner.
Nikki Fried (Agriculture Commissioner) was a Democratic candidate to be governor. She called the new law “state-sanctioned hate” and declared it unconstitutional.
Fried stated that “This bill represents a vile effort to erase our country’s history, censor schools and businesses, and whitewash the history.”
DeSantis refuted the law’s claim to stop history from being taught accurately. He stated that instruction in parts of history, such as the Holocaust or slavery, is a requirement for the state.
The law contains a provision that allows teachers and students to have discussions and use curriculums to discuss “in an age-appropriate way, how freedoms of persons were infringed through sexism or slavery” and related concepts.
DeSantis, a supporter of the “free Florida” rallying cry, praised the law as an extension of that philosophy.
“We believe that freedom in Florida includes the freedom to not have oppressive ideologies imposed on you without your consent, in the classroom, and at work. DeSantis stated that they decided to take action.