Federal Judge Blocks DeSantis ‘Stop WOKE’ Act, Once Again
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that an injunction will temporarily halt the Individual Freedom Act–or “Stop WOKE” Act. Gov. DeSantis signed the act into law last year to protect Floridians from having gender and critical race ideology injected into their classrooms and workplaces. The act has been popular with parents but has received several legal challenges from left-wing activist groups.
In November, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted an injunction against the law, preventing it from taking effect. At the time, he described the legislation as “positively dystopian.” Walker, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, cited George Orwell’s novel 1984 in his 139-page order.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom.’”
The Stop WOKE act has received challenges from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sued on behalf of a professor from the University of Southern Florida.
The DeSantis administration had sought to reverse Walker’s injunction, but the effort was defeated this week in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the court’s Republican-appointed majority. DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin argued that “[t]he Court did not rule on the merits of our appeal.”
“The appeal is ongoing, and we remain confident that the law is constitutional.”
The Stop WOKE Act was first signed into law during the 2022 legislative session, prohibiting Critical Race Theory instruction in classrooms and preventing schools from hiring “woke CRT consultants.” The law also applied to mandatory workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion training. Stop WOKE also provided a “private right of action” for employees, students, and parents to fight back.
“We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards,” DeSantis said after announcing the bill in 2021. “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.”
While the law remains tied up in court, the DeSantis administration has still been able to leverage it in the fight against the CRT curriculum. The Stop WOKE Act was used as a major justification by the Florida Department of Education in blocking the College Board’s AP African American Studies course last January. In a letter to College Board, the Florida DoE wrote, “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
Meanwhile, the DeSantis administration continues pursuing other ways of fighting against DEI ideology. In February, the newly-appointed board of trustees at state university New College voted to eliminate its diversity, equity, and inclusion department.
While the Florida governor is widely expected to announce a 2024 presidential bid in the coming months, his record in reforming the state’s education system is being touted as a blueprint for America.
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