TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to give Florida parents the power to enforce the state’s ban on “critical race theory” (CRT) at public schools.
The governor on Wednesday announced plans to introduce legislation that would better combat CRT, as well as the New York Times’ 1619 project, in Florida schools. He said the “Stop Wrong Against Our Kids And Employees Act,” or “Stop Woke Act,” as it’s called, would put the department’s ban into law.
“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.”
DeSantis said the legislation would also prevent teachers and school staff from being subject to “anti-racist therapy” or CRT training. Districts would also be barred from paying CRT consultants with school funds.
“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” the governor said. “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.”
Dr. Jonathan Cox, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida says Florida officials like DeSantis have it all wrong when it comes to CRT.
“It’s not about things being inherent or people belonging to inherent groups that you are just inherently oppressed or inherently an oppressor. It’s more about socially and historically speaking what groups have held power and how has that power helped kind of shape and mold our social world,” Cox told Cap News Services in June.
Florida public schools are required by law to teach historical topics like slavery, the Holocaust and the Declaration of Independence, but there is debate about how well teachers are carrying out instruction.
According to Merriam-Webster, by definition, critical race theory is “a group of concepts (such as the idea that race is a sociological rather than biological designation, and that racism pervades society and is fostered and perpetuated by the legal system) used for examining the relationship between race and the laws and legal institutions of a country and especially the United States.”
The academic concept was developed in the 1980s, but gained traction over the past two years following the murder of George Floyd and other high-profile killings of Black people.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the person credited with coining the term, told the New York Times “it is a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced, the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”
But opponents of critical race theory argue it and discriminates against white people by teaching students “all white people are racist,” and that it teaches white children to hate themselves.
“When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” Jonathan Butcher and Mike Gonzalez wrote in a report for conservative organization the Heritage Foundation.
The New York Times’ 1619 project has drawn criticism from some historians who say it puts ideology before the facts.
In recent months, a number of states have moved to restrict the way racism is taught in schools. Some fear the moves will have the biggest effects on teachers who will be forced to second-guess their lesson plans.
“History teachers can not adequately teach about the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. English teachers will have to avoid teaching almost any text by an African American author because many of them mention racism to various extents,” English teacher Mike Stein told Chalkbeat Tennessee.
“Teachers are trained and experienced in educating children and have a duty to prepare their students to be successful contributors to society. Teachers should have the freedom to teach honest, complete facts about historical events like slavery and civil rights without being censored by politicians. The governor’s announcement today goes against this fundamental American value. All Florida’s children should receive a fact-based education that doesn’t change depending on their ZIP code,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said in a statement following the governor’s announcement.