State Watch

DeSantis unveils legislation to let parents sue schools that teach critical race theory

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) rolled out legislation Wednesday that would allow parents to sue schools that teach critical race theory. 

DeSantis announced the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, which he said in a statement would be “the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation and will take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory.”

The law, which was also rolled out at a campaign-style press conference, allows parents to sue over the teaching of the theory. However, critical race theory is a graduate-level concept taught at the university level more often than in K-12 schools. 

A press release on the bill from DeSantis’s office listed seven “National examples of Critical Race Theory,” though none were in Florida. The bill also gives workers the ability to sue companies that promote the theory and other sensitivity and racial awareness training.

Critical race theory posits that racism is embedded in U.S. history, laws and institutions and seeks to promote equity. Teaching the theory in Florida public schools is already banned, but DeSantis and other Republicans claim its core lessons are still being taught. 

“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” said DeSantis. “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.”

The bill, which also allows parents to collect attorney fees, includes a similar provision as a Texas bill restricting access to abortion, which permits citizens to sue people who provide and aid in the provision of abortions. Plaintiffs there can also collect attorney fees.

Several other governors, both Democrats and Republicans, have suggested they could enact other legislation using the enforcement mechanism, be it on guns, abortion or other hot-button issues.

DeSantis has emerged as a standout conservative due, in part, to his fight against coronavirus-related health restrictions like mask and vaccine mandates and business closures. He is up for reelection next year and is believed to be mulling a White House bid in 2024. 

Critical race theory is a hot topic among Republicans after Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) campaigned on it heavily this year on his way to an upset win in Virginia, a victory that marked Republican’s first gubernatorial victory in the commonwealth since 2009.

Democrats panned DeSantis’s new law, accusing him of further dividing the state. 

“Let’s be clear, Gov. DeSantis and his administration know full well that CRT is not taught in K-12 schools or workplaces. It’s unfortunate that instead of running on forward-looking ideas to improve people’s daily lives, Republicans would rather manufacture a crisis out of a non-issue, all in the hopes of fanning the flames of a culture war for political gain,” said state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), the vice chair of the state Senate Education Committee.

Tags Critical race theory Florida Glenn Youngkin Ron DeSantis

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