Florida judge temporarily blocks DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE’ law

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

In December of 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act.” The act provides companies, employees, children, and families with tools to fight against woke indoctrination.

DeSantis’ office released a statement at the time which declared, “The Stop W.O.K.E. Act will be the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation and will take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory. Today’s proposal builds on actions Governor DeSantis has already taken to ban Critical Race Theory and the New York Times’ 1619 project in Florida’s schools.”

“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

“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.”

On Thursday a Florida judge halted and blocked the “Stop WOKE” law asserting that it is unconstitutional.

A U.S. District Judge in Tallahassee ruled in a 44-page ruling that the “Stop Woke” act violated free speech and due process protections under the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment.

“Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely,” according to the judge. “But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

“The “anti-woke” legislation, passed earlier this year by Florida’s legislature and backed by DeSantis, expands the state’s anti-discrimination laws by prohibiting teachings or practices that contend that members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilty for the actions their ancestors committed,” ADN America reported.

Additionally, it claims that a person’s status as “privileged” or “oppressed” is not determined by race, gender, or national origin.

“We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said in December when he announced the law. “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 Critical Race Theory-inspired ‘training’ and indoctrination.”

“Walker, however, said that the law bars free speech by prohibiting businesses to discuss certain topics in training programs,” ADN continued.

“If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case,” judge walker wrote. “But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.”

This week’s ruling came as part of one of the three lawsuits challenging the Stop Woke act. The lawsuit was filed by private entities claiming that their free speech rights are violated because the law infringes on company training programs that focus on diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity in the workplace is good for business,” explained Sara Margulis, CEO of Honeyfund, the company that filed the lawsuit. “Diversity training often addresses concepts like systemic racism, unconscious bias, and privilege. This is why Honeyfund challenged this illegal restriction on free speech.”

Students and professors also sued, claiming the law is a form of “racially motivated censorship” which would “stifle widespread demands to discuss, study and address systemic inequalities.”

“In place of free and open academic inquiry and debate, instructors fear discussing topics of oppression, privilege, and race and gender inequalities with which the Legislature disagrees,” the suit states.

“As a result, students are either denied access to knowledge altogether or instructors are forced to present incomplete or inaccurate information that is steered toward the Legislature’s own views.”

Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, Jeanette Nuñez, said at the time the Stop W.O.K.E. Act was unveiled that “As the daughter of Cuban exiles who fled from Marxist ideology, I am proud to stand alongside Governor DeSantis and support this proposed legislation that will put an end to wokeness that is permeating our schools and workforce.”

“This important legislation gives students and employees the resources they need to fight back against discrimination, critical race theory and indoctrination. I’m proud to stand alongside the Governor not only of the free state of Florida but the woke-free state of Florida.”

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has 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,” said Richard Corcoran, Florida’s Commissioner of Education.

“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,” Desantis’ staff added.

“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,” said Laly Jimenez-Hincapie. “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.”

“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,” said Lacaysha Howell, mother of three. “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.”

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