On Friday, April 22, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signedHB 7, more commonly known by supporters as the “Stop WOKE Act,” in an effort to limit teachings that communicate to students and employees that they are inherently oppressive because of their race or sex. Support’s name for the bill, “Stop WOKE Act,” refers to banning “woke ideology,” often associated with teachings about critical race theory. However, “Stop WOKE” originally was a name used by DeSantis, short for “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”
The act prohibits workplace training or school lessons that teach students and employees that individuals are “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Additionally, the act aims to prevent teachings that communicate that one person “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” for past happenings. The law will go into effect starting July 1, 2022.
The “Stop Woke Act” Is Not a Surprise
Governor DeSantis presented the legislation in December, hoping to “take on both corporate wokeness and critical race theory.” Since then, Florida has passed a controversial education bill known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill is set to “prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels.”
Similarly, in March, Governor DeSantissigned a lawgiving parents the right to review curriculum materials and books.
“We’ve never seen anything like this, in terms of concerted attacks on public education in a single state,” said Jeremy Young, Senior Manager of Free Expression and Education atPEN America, an organization advocating for free expression. “And it’s really devastating to see these bills become law.”
The input of critics has not stopped Florida from continuing to pass similar bills. “No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race,” DeSantis said in astatement. “In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”
DeSantis Attacks Disney
Having criticized Governor DeSantis for signing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, Disney was addressed by DeSantis when he said, “I think it’s interesting that you’re getting involved in Florida, protecting kindergarteners from going to school without having transgender ideology in their curriculum, but you don’t say anything about the Communist Party of China with all the atrocities they’re committing there, and you’re making a fortune with them.”
DeSantis said the company “crossed the line” by daring to oppose the “Don’t Say Gay” bill after it had already passed. Approved on Thursday by state lawmakers, DeSantis proposed measures against Disney. One of the governor’s measures will revoke Disney’s district status. In other words, Disney is not able to make additions to its resort area without interference from neighboring counties.
Critics Label Act as “Dangerous” to Education
Meant to prohibit critical race theory, a framework that explains how institutions perpetuate racism, the “Stop WOKE Act” is criticized by opponents for infringing teachers’ and employers’ First Amendment rights, along with greatly limiting important discussion in classrooms and workplaces.
Amy Turkel, interim executive director of the ACLU of Florida, commented on the “chilling” effect the bill will have on educationin a statement.She explained, “This dangerous law is part of a nationwide trend to whitewash history and chill free speech in classrooms and workplaces. It will infringe on teachers’ and employers’ First Amendment rights and chill their ability to use concepts like systemic racism and gender discrimination to teach about and discuss important American history.”
She continued, “The First Amendment is clear: no politician holds more power than our Constitution. This blatant attempt to restrict free speech — including the right to share ideas and receive information in classrooms and workplaces — is dangerous for our democracy.”