The Florida House passed HB 7 this week and voted along party lines. In essence, the legislation named the Individual Freedom Act (also referred to as the “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act”) prohibits public schools and employers (with 15 or more employees) from teaching critical race theory and the 1619 project.
Introducing the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory. We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other.”
DeSantis took a similar approach when discussing employers who attempt to mandate critical race theory training for their employees. Such training, according to DeSantis, could constitute a “hostile work environment.”
Specifically, DeSantis noted:
“How is it not a hostile work environment to be attacking people based on their race or telling them that they’re privileged or part of oppressive systems when all they’re doing is showing up to work and trying to earn a living. We believe that that violates the Florida Civil Rights laws, but to the extent that it doesn’t, we’re going to make sure that the law does include this.”
The purpose of the bill is to prevent teachers and employers from trying to brainwash or impose a certain mindset on their students or workers. As reported by the Tampa Bay Times:
It would outlaw any schooling or workplace training which teaches that “members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
According to a report in The Miami Times:
As an example, the bill targets training sessions that would lead people to think that they bear “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” or sex.
The section of the bill dealing with schools would label instruction as discrimination if they were to make a student to “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part” committed by people of the same race or sex.
As expected, opponents of the legislation assert that it is an effort to attack marginalized communities and silence people from discussing meaningful issues.
As reported by The Miami Times, quoting Cathryn M. Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign:
“This bill is a thinly veiled political attempt to attack marginalized communities. It doesn’t address the critical needs of Floridians, but instead, fuels the discriminatory agenda of extremist legislators. Let’s be clear — the negative consequences of the “Stop WOKE Act” will ripple across Florida. It will hurt the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and women. Every historically marginalized population will be impacted by this legislation.”
Proponents of the bill disagree. For example, Rep. Colleen Burton, Republican from Lakeland, noted that the bill’s purpose is to prevent a “certain ideology” from being injected into instruction for students or workers.
According to Burton:
“What this bill does is ensures for the future that it stays that way. And that it’s very, very clear to educators across the state of Florida, whether they’re educating in classrooms or whether they’re doing training in businesses … that what we teach and what we talk about in those instances is fact.”
A similar version of the bill, SB 148, which applies to K-12, recently cleared the Senate Education Committee.
Mr. Hakim is an attorney and columnist. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, American Thinker, and other online publications. He is also a regular guest on OANN’s Tipping Point.