TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s ban on teaching critical race theory in schools and workplaces is up for debate and amendments on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
House Bill 7, entitled “Individual Freedom,” would, according to the legislature, “expand” the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and protections of the Florida Educational Equity Act.
HB 7 would block teaching racially-focused subjects and examinations from educational curriculum or workplace trainings. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis first announced the idea behind the legislation at a December 2021 event in Wildwood, Fla., where he called it the “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids And Employees Act,” or “Stop WOKE Act,” which would codify current state Department of Education bans on critical race theory into law.
The text of HB 7 states it is discrimination to force anyone to take any teaching or training that makes them “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” based on their “race, color, sex or national origin.”
HB 7 also states any such teaching, training or activity that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” them to believe their race, color, sex, or national origin is morally superior to members of another is also discrimination.
HB 7 states it constitutes discrimination to subject any student or employee — or any individual “as a condition of employment, membership, certification, licensing, credentialing, or passing an examination” —to any training or instruction that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individual to believe any of the following concepts”:
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another
- An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously
- An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin
- People cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin
- An individual bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin
- An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion
- An individual bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin
- Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another
The bill includes language stating none of the above topics are prohibited “as part of a larger course of training or instruction, provided such training or instruction is given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.”
As written, despite how it’s been packaged by legislators and state leaders, the language of HB 7 is missing the three words central to debate over its purpose: critical race theory.
According to Merriam-Webster, critical race theory, often shortened to CRT, is defined as “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.”
In relation to the educational and legal concept, the term does not appear in relation to the bill outside of a single mention in the Florida Legislature’s analysis of HB 7, and the fiercely polarized debate over the politics of CRT and its supposed curriculum.
A 2019 curriculum aid proposed and created by The New York Times, called the 1619 Project. Legislative analysis makes clear that Florida instructional materials may not come from the NYT publication. The 1619 Project is never mentioned in the proposed legislation, only in its analysis.
Pursuant to rules of the DOE, examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with SBE-approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons. Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.Florida Legislative Analysis, House Bill 7
When the New York Times Magazine articles were published, politically conservative lawmakers and commentators pushed back against it. Proponents of the material said the publications expanded Americans understanding of history.
That debate, and political battle, spread throughout the national discourse, with former President Donald Trump signing an executive order blocking CRT from being taught. When President Joe Biden took office, he removed that order. Since then, the fight has spread to state legislatures, including Florida.
To be clear, CRT is not taught in Florida schools at any grade level. According to the legislative analysis, the bill would prevent the topic from being taught in any “Florida K-20 public education system” in order to block what it calls a distortion of historical events that are inconsistent with State Board of Education guidelines.
HB 7 would also make it illegal for schools or curricula to teach that members of any race, color, sex or national origin are morally privileged or oppressed by virtue of their birth. It also would make it illegal for someone to receive adverse treatment or be discriminated against over those traits.
The bill also says teaching students that “virtues like merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress” other demographic groups would be illegal.
In addition to the race-based curriculum rules, HB 7 includes instructional guidance on health education such as injury prevention, internet safety, nutrition, personal health, prevention and control of disease, substance abuse, and prevention of child sexual abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
Under the bill, if passed, schools would also teach students life skills for building confidence, supporting mental and emotional health and enabling students to overcome challenges such as “self-awareness and self-management, responsible decisionmaking, resiliency, relationship skills and conflict resolution, understanding and respecting other viewpoints and backgrounds.”
The bill also requires high school students be taught about “developing leadership skills, interpersonal skills, organization skills, and research skills; creating a resume, including a digital resume; exploring career pathways; using state career planning resources; developing and practicing the skills necessary for employment interviews; workplace ethics and workplace law; managing stress and expectations; and self-motivation.”
Under the bill, those lessons may not contradict the educational guidance of the race-based section. School personnel must not “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles of this subsection or state academic standards.”
Teachers must also make sure that discussions over these topics are done in an age-appropriate manner, and must use the curricula to discuss “how the freedoms of persons have been infringed by sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in sexism, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination, including how recognition of these freedoms have overturned these unjust laws.”
The State Board of Education would be required to develop lesson plans to meet these requirements and “inspire future generations through motivating stories of American history that demonstrate important life skills and the principles of individual freedom that enabled persons to prosper even in the most difficult circumstances.” The curriculum would be named “Stories of Inspiration,” according to HB 7.
The bill has already received strong support from Gov. DeSantis and leaders in both chambers of the legislature. The governor previously called academic concept of CRT “crap” in December 2021.