DeSantis seeks new law to keep critical race theory out of Florida schools, workplaces

Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act to be introduced at next legislative session

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Wildwood on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

WILDWOOD, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday in Wildwood, proposing new legislation to combat critical race theory in schools and workplaces statewide.

The Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, aka the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, will put the Florida Department of Education’s ban on critical race theory in K-12 schools into statute, the governor said.

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“No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our county or to hate each other,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the new legislation intends to defund efforts to teach critical race theory to students and employees in Florida via hired consultants, curriculum or otherwise.

“They bring a lot of this into those institutions and they call it equity, (but) just understand when you hear ‘equity’ used, that is just an ability for people to smuggle in their ideology,” DeSantis said.

A new ban by the Florida Board of Education on critical race theory education statewide won’t impact the curriculum in Central Florida classrooms because school district officials say they didn’t teach it to begin with.

Under the statute, the legislation would also grant parents a private right of action to enforce the ban on critical race theory in schools and file lawsuits against school districts accused of teaching it, with attorney’s fees recovered “when they prevail,” DeSantis said.

“A lot of times these people will fear lawsuits more than a fine from the state Department of Education because when you do a lawsuit, you get discovery, and you’re subject to that, and when they say they’re not doing CRT and then you have all this information showing that they are doing it, it really is an uncomfortable position for them,” DeSantis said. “I think that gives parents the ability to go in and ensure that our state standards are being followed.”

Before the current school year began, News 6 reached out to every Central Florida school district about the topic of critical race theory. Of the counties that responded — Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola and Seminole — all of the districts said CRT is not instructed in its schools.

Seminole, Brevard and Lake school districts reiterated Wednesday that CRT is not being taught and there are no plans or proposals to do so. Orange, Flagler, Marion, Osceola, Sumter and Volusia school officials also said CRT is not taught in its respective schools.

DeSantis said the legislation would also include provisions to give employees an ability to protect themselves against what he called “corporate CRT,” referencing programs allegedly held within Bank of America, Verizon and Google as those that encourage employees to “become woke at work.”

“We believe that this corporate CRT, it’s basically corporate-sanctioned racism, and they’re trying to shove it down these employees’ throats, we believe that that violates the Florida civil rights laws,” DeSantis said.

News 6 asked Florida politicians for their reaction to the proposed legislation.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, said that he strongly supported the governor’s proposal.

“critical race theory is a sick and un-American ideology that should be eliminated from all schools and also from workplaces,” Sabatini said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said that if Floridians are actually concerned about the teaching of critical race theory in schools, they should remember that the Department of Education already banned it.

“Governor Ron DeSantis needs to stop dividing us with fake problems and start focusing on crises in front of us including the exodus of educators, unaffordable housing, awful health disparities, FPL undermining democracy and trying to end net metering, and corporations not paying their taxes are just a few real life issues we need to work together across the aisle to solve,” Eskamani said. “That’s why Governor DeSantis is not governing right now — he is performing.”

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said that the proposed legislation is a great step forward for the state of Florida.

“critical race theory is a racist ideology that says the opposite of what Dr. King said, critical race theory says we should be judged on the color of our skin, it’s racist and it’s un-American,” Fine said. “I think the Republican Party, the governor and the legislature will work very hard to make sure people understand that we can and should teach about historical racism in our country, which is completely different than advocating the ideology of critical race theory.”

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, issued a statement that said the governor’s proposal is a horrible idea that “does a disservice to our kids.”

“None of Central Florida’s school districts even teach CRT. So, why propose it?” Bracy said. “Because the Governor wants to issue a chilling effect on what educators are able to discuss while providing cover for those who are uncomfortable learning the truth about the history of race relations in the United States.”

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar issued the following statement in response to DeSantis’ announcement:

The Stop W.O.K.E. Act will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session, the governor said.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.