Florida bill targets educational programs on diversity, equity, inclusion, critical race theory

Student protestors arrested, accused of battery against officers

Jacksonville faith leaders & Northside Coalition traveling to Tallahassee for rally at Capitol

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House Bill 999 aims to target diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, also known as DEI, and the study of critical race theory at all of the state’s public universities, according to News 6 partner WPLG.

Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the passing of the bill to ban all spending designated to “promote, support, or maintain” the subjects that supporters describe as “political identity” filters.

“The people who are going to suffer the consequences of these bills are kids,” claimed Chris Finan, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Finan warned that one of the consequences of the restrictions could be that Florida schools’ reputations get damaged to the point that adding them to a resume could become like a “badge of infamy.”

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Some students organized protests against the bill. Police officers arrested four students on Monday at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The students — Gia Davila, 21; Laura Rodriguez, 23; Jeanie Kida, 26; and Chrisley Carpio, 31 — faced charges of battery on a law enforcement officer; resisting an officer without violence; and disrupting a school campus or function, according to Hillsborough County records.

In response, DeSantis’ office released a statement saying that House Bill 999 aims to push back “against the tactics of liberal elites who suppress free thought in the name of identity politics and indoctrination.”

Finan said the bill also presents a threat to college professors.

“They can be reviewed... without any cause, without any shown need for such a review, which is going to hang like a hammer of the heads of teachers,” Finan said.

Meanwhile, many lawmakers said that the goal of public schools is to help prepare students for success — something they say DEI is not designed for.

“This bill is designed to do is to make sure the state university system is following through on its statutory mission of preparing students that are coming to state universities for in-demand jobs, developing the human resources and human capital of the state,” State Rep. Alex Andrade said.

Andrade added that DEI has been used as a tool for discrimination in many schools, which lawmakers hope to stop.

“What we’ve seen is a trend across the country where these DEI departments have become more focused on advocating for discrimination in the name of equality than they are actually improving the student experience...” he said.

While student groups aren’t expected to be impact, Andrade explained that certain majors dealing in critical race theory — which he defined as the notion that “racism is baked into every aspect of society today” — would be pulled if the bill were to pass.

“A major in critical race theory that is in the bill currently, that’s being pulled out. A major in radical feminist theory, that’s being directed to be pulled out...” he said. “No one has a right to demand the dedication of state resources to any major that they like. I can’t show up to the University of Florida tomorrow and say, ‘I demand a major in underwater dance theory and basket weaving.’”

DeSantis has supported other laws related to public education. He signed the Parental Rights in Education bill to limit education about topics like gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools, and the House Bill 1467, which seeks to cut back on “inappropriate” and “pornographic” books available to students in schools.

DeSantis endorsed Florida House Bill 7, better known as the Stop WOKE Act, to restrict educational discussions about race and gender at schools, but a federal judge blocked it late last year.

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About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.