The ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the Legal Defense Fund and a national law firm filed a lawsuit Thursday, Aug. 18 challenging Florida’s ‘Stop Woke Act,” which restricts how race, gender and equality are discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces, reports NBC News.
The complaint, filed in federal court, names the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System and the commissioner of the Florida State Board of Education as defendants. It also names as defendants the boards of trustees of several public universities within the university system.
The complaint charges that the act is racially motivated censorship enacted by the Florida Legislature to stifle widespread demands to discuss, study and address systematic inequalities, following the nationwide protests that provoked discussions about race and racism in the aftermath of the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and Ahmad Arbery.
As part of the racial reckoning spurred by their deaths, people across disciplines, including professors and other educators at universities, sought to talk about the importance of racial justice in their work, and a number of departments issued statements that emphasized their commitment to anti-racism in their classrooms, Leah Watson, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program said.
“After the ‘Stop Woke Act’ went into effect, many of those statements were withdrawn altogether,” Watson said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill in April and the Legislation passed the bill along party lines. It bars instruction that might make members of one race feel guilty for past actions committed by their race and also bars the notion that meritocracy is racist or that people are privileged or oppressed based on race, gender or national origin.
It also prevents the teaching of critical race theory, which opponents of the legislation have said is not taught in Florida’s k-12 public schools.