A measure that forbids the teaching of so-called Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools grades K-12 and in the state’s public universities and colleges was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week and was immediately challenged on grounds that it violates teachers’ First Amendment rights.
CRT is a cross-disciplinary social movement that examines the way race, society, and the law have affected racial justice in the US. The theory claims that inherent or systemic racism exists in our society, extending from the advantages whites have over minorities. Critics of CRT say that the theory is divisive and promotes racism.
Signed by DeSantis during a press conference in Hialeah Gardens on April 22, HR7 or the so-called Stop- W.O.K.E. Act makes it unlawful to teach that members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are superior to those of another, that people are inherently racist or sexist; that anyone is either privileged or oppressed on the basis of their race, national origin or sex; or that anyone should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of their race in order to achieve diversity, equity or inclusion.
The new law also forbids teaching CRT-type concepts in corporate classrooms used for employee training.
“We believe in education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said before signing the bill. “We will not let people distort history to serve their current ideological goals.”
Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education said that the legislation promotes equality for all students and others.
“This legislation affirms that all students, no matter their backgrounds, should be treated as individuals with unique experiences and that they should be afforded equal opportunities to find success and fulfillment,” he said.
Immediately after the legislation became law, a group including a pair of teachers filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Florida on grounds that the measure violated their Constitutional rights under the First Amendment.
“This bill grossly infringes on the First Amendment’s fundamental guarantees of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and students’ rights to access information regarding these topics,” said Jesse B. Wilkerson, of the legal firm of Sheppard, White, Kachergus, DeMaggio and Wilkison which represents the plaintiffs.
HR 7 becomes effective on July 1.
The lawsuit remains pending.