Judge Blocks DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE Act’ From Applying To Colleges – Forbes

Topline

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked part of a Florida law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that essentially banned state college professors from teaching topics the state considered critical race theory, in one of the first political blows for the governor following a landslide reelection that has led to speculation of a presidential run.

Key Facts

Obama-appointed District Judge Mark Walker said Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” amounted to a “positively dystopian” encroachment on academic freedom by limiting teachings to state-approved viewpoints.

The law, which DeSantis proposed in late 2021 and signed in April, let professors at public universities and public school teachers be sued for teaching ideas like: “An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race.”

The law also prohibited employers from mandating workforce training programs related to race, though Walker issued a separate injunction in August blocking that portion of the law.

A University of South Florida history professor and a student argued in a lawsuit that the policy is unlawful government censorship, leading to Thursday’s injunction.

DeSantis’ office and the Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Forbes.

Crucial Quote

“If our ‘priests of democracy’ are not allowed to shed light on challenging ideas, then democracy will die in darkness,” Walker wrote, referring to professors.

Key Background

The law was proposed and approved at a time when GOP legislatures around the country were taking action against critical race theory—a loosely defined academic framework holding that American institutions are inherently racist against people of color—despite scant evidence it was actually being taught in classrooms. Former President Donald Trump was one of the lead voices blasting critical race theory, claiming—without evidence—it was a form of left-wing indoctrination of American children. Many Republicans looked past Trump’s culture war talking points heading into the midterms, instead focusing on attacking Democrats for high inflation and economic woes. High-profile GOP candidates who made Trump’s views central to their campaigns, especially his false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, typically did not perform as well as Republicans who did not.

Tangent

DeSantis pummeled Democratic challenger and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist 59%-40% in last week’s election, winning 62 of Florida’s 67 counties. Though he has not said whether or not he is running for president, DeSantis is now the favorite in betting odds to win the 2024 Republican nomination, setting off a possible primary showdown against Trump.

Further Reading

DeSantis Unveils ‘Stop W.O.K.E. Act’ So Parents Can Sue Over Critical Race Theory In Schools (Forbes)

Mississippi’s Black Senators Stage Walkout Over Bill Banning Critical Race Theory (Forbes)

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