The Florida House on Thursday voted in approval of the ‘Stop WOKE Act,’ a measure pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as combating “woke” teachings in schools. The bill, which has been heavily maligned by House Democrats, bans schools and businesses from teaching or training that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
House Bill 7 (HB 7), The ‘Stop Wrong Against Our Kids and Employees Act,’ stylized as “Stop WOKE Act,” would prevent state funding from going to public schools that enact a CRT learning plan, also preventing staff from being subject to what DeSantis called ‘anti-racist therapy.’ DeSantis additionally took aim at corporate America, condemning conglomerates like Bank of America and Google for implementing company-wide trainings targeting racial equity amid racial justice protests in 2020. T
“I think what you see now with the rise of this ‘woke’ ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and delegitimize our institutions,” said DeSantis. “They want to tear the fabric of our society, and our culture, and a lot of things we’ve taken for granted, like the ability of parents to raise their children.”
The ‘Stop WOKE Act’ passed the House along party lines, 74-41.
The bill would also grant parents the ability to legally challenge Critical Race Theory (CRT) teachings in schools while being reimbursed by the state for attorney fees throughout the process.
“We are going to be including in this legislation giving parents a private right of action to be able to enforce the prohibition on CRT, and they get to recover attorney’s fees when they prevail, which is very important,” DeSantis said. “A lot of times these people will fear lawsuits more than a fine from the State Department of Education.”
Supporters said the measure would ensure that children and employees aren’t made to feel guilty for historical events they weren’t personally involved in and that all races are viewed equally. Detractors, like Rep. Angela Nixon, claim that the passage of HB 7 could prove to be imposing on teachers, further straining the ongoing teacher shortage the state is facing.
“Many of us know that teachers in our local schools do their best to ensure our children thrive. They’ve been on the front lines of the pandemic showing that they’ll do all they can to keep our kids healthy and safe,” said Nixon. “Sadly, Ron DeSantis and Republicans want to convince us that somehow our schools, full of teachers that care and want the best for our kids, are actually factories programming students to be racist. Once again, our children are being used to play divisive political games that appeal to his far-right extremist base.”
The bill’s passage through the House brings it one step closer to being signed into law. A companion bill, Senate Bill 148, has passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote.