A federal judge on Thursday blocked Florida’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, from being enforced at colleges and universities.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Thursday that the legislation, which prohibits faculty from teaching race in a way that might induce “guilt, anguish or other psychological distress,” cannot be enforced at higher education institutions calling it “positively dystopian.” The ruling comes after two lawsuits by a Florida A&M professor and University of South Florida student and professor who argued the act was unconstitutional. (RELATED: Gov. DeSantis Signs ‘Parental Rights’ Bill Into Law)
“Striking at the heart of ‘open-mindedness and critical inquiry,’ the State of Florida has taken over the ‘marketplace of ideas’ to suppress disfavored viewpoints and limit where professors may shine their light on eight specific ideas,” Walker wrote. “And Defendants’ argument permits zero restraint on the State of Florida’s power to expand its limitation on viewpoints to any idea it chooses.”
Under the law, professors who teach race in a way that induces guilt or blame in the classroom could be fired or penalized. Professors accused of violating the law would be reviewed by faculty members and could be fired if given an “unsatisfactory review”
DeSantis signed the “Stop W.O.K.E Act” into law in April, and it became effective on July 1. Walker blocked another aspect of the law in August, which prohibited businesses from implementing race-related training programs.
“The Stop W.O.K.E. Act protects the open exchange of ideas by prohibiting teachers or employers who hold agency over others from forcing discriminatory concepts on students as part of classroom instruction or on employees as a condition of maintaining employment,” DeSantis’ office said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “An ‘open-minded and critical’ environment necessitates that one is free from discrimination. We intend to appeal.”
In his opinion, Walker quoted “1984” by George Orwell.
“‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom,’” Walker wrote.
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