Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced another bill for the legislature to consider when it convenes next year: a law banning so-called critical race theory from being taught in K-12 schools.
But the law goes beyond other similar CRT bans passed in other states in that it also protects employees from CRT training in the workplace and allows workers and parents to sue those that violate the ban.
DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act,” or “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act,” would statutorily ban the teaching of CRT in all K-12 schools in Florida. It would also prohibit Florida school districts, colleges and universities from hiring CRT consultants—and allow employees and parents to sue if they did.
“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” DeSantis said. “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards. Finally, we must protect Florida workers against the hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired ‘training’ and indoctrination.”
Critical Race Theory is broadly defined as a set of concepts used for “examining the relationship between race and the laws and legal institutions,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.
Thomas Lindsay, a distinguished senior fellow of higher education and constitutional studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, explains that CRT programs are “being instituted down to the third grade, where they’re telling third-grade children that because of the color of their skin, they are oppressors, meaning that because of the color of their skin, they’re bad.”
“That used to be called racism,” he said. “And unfortunately, critical race theory is the new racism.”
According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs, CRT “is an outgrowth of Critical Legal Studies, which was a leftist movement that challenged traditional legal scholarship. It recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.”
The new Florida law codifies the CRT ban issued in June by the state Board of Education.
Because not all schools are necessarily following the department’s ban, DeSantis implied, the legislation will give “parents a private right of action to be able to enforce the prohibition on CRT and they get to cover attorney fees when they prevail.”
The law models the newly enacted Texas abortion ban law, enabling citizens to sue those who violate the law. The threat of limitless lawsuits against those who aid or perform abortions has halted most abortions from being performed in Texas.
DeSantis noted that while the law strengthens the enforcement action of the state Department of Education, the threat of litigation is a powerful incentive.
“There will be a fortified ability for the state Department of Education to hold people accountable, but honestly, the parents know best what’s going on and they’re in the best position to be able to do it,” DeSantis said.
“Here’s the thing, a lot of times these people will fear lawsuits more than a fine from the state Department of Education because when you do a lawsuit you get discovery and you are subject to that. And when they say they’re not doing CRT and then you have all this information showing that they are doing it, it really is an uncomfortable position for them.”
“I think that gives parents the ability to go in and ensure our state standards are being followed,” he added.
Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said that the state has already “very publicly adopted new state education standards for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Civics, Character Education and more, and we are modernizing students’ curriculum and lesson plans to match Florida’s new world-class education standards.
“However, our classrooms, students and even teachers are under constant threat by Critical Race Theory advocates who are attempting to manipulate classroom content into a means to impose one’s values on students, when instead schools should be empowering students with great, historically accurate knowledge and giving those students and their families the freedom to draw their own conclusions.”
The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest union with more than 150,000 members, opposes DeSantis’ proposal as well as the state Board of Education’s CRT ban.
Teachers should have the freedom to teach honest, complete facts about historical events like slavery and civil rights without being censored by politicians,” FEA President Andrew Spar said. “The governor’s announcement today goes against this fundamental American value. All Florida’s children should receive a fact-based education that doesn’t change depending on their ZIP code.”
But Latino school parents criticized efforts to teach CRT in public schools.
“Our schools are meant to be safe, fun and about learning, but teaching critical race theory breeds division. There was so much being taught I had overlooked in the school system for so long,” Laly Jimenez-Hincapie said in a statement issued by the governor’s office. “My father was a political prisoner in Cuba who fled after his time served. I used to laugh at his fear of communism infiltrating our country. This is the land of the free and home of the brave. Communism will never come into this country. American history is being replaced by CRT. Manipulated versions of this theory are a direct attack on the emotional wellbeing of our children. Our children deserve to know this history and be proud of it, land of the free and home of the brave.”
Lacaysha Howell, mother of three, also said, “We need to get back to the basics: reading, math, arithmetic. CRT is not something I agree with at all, especially as a person of color.
“Kids are coming home telling parents they are learning things that are incomprehensible to them. I am biracial and my three kids are biracial. This [CRT] is not what we need to be teaching in our schools. I want to continue to keep my kids in public school, but their educators need to teach them the basics.”
This article was originally posted on DeSantis introduces “Stop WOKE Act” to ban critical race theory schools