Federal Appeals Court Blocks Universities From Enforcing Florida’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’

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A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the decision to block parts of the Florida legislature’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by Florida state officials to appeal the block in a two-paragraph summary in November of 2022. The court loss Thursday marks another setback for the law, which was first introduced in 2021. The law cannot be enforced at Florida’s public universities as previously intended. (RELATED: Gov. DeSantis Signs ‘Parental Rights’ Bill Into Law)

Under the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” professors who teach race in a manner that induces guilt or blame in the classroom could be penalized or fired. Professors accused of violating the law would be reviewed by faculty members and could be fired if given an “unsatisfactory review.”

The legislation was met with several lawsuits, claiming that it violates academic freedom and free speech rights. University of South Florida (USF) professor Adriana Novoa, USF student Sam Rechek, and USF’s First Amendment Forum filed a lawsuit backed by FIRE, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a brief in support of the lawsuit.

In a preliminary injunction in November, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the law put more burdens on the state’s educational institutions and businesses.

“This is positively dystopian,” Walker wrote at the time. “It should go without saying that if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’”

DeSantis’ office previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the legislation “protects the open exchange of ideas” in classrooms.

“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,” they said in a statement. “An ‘open-minded and critical’ environment necessitates that one is free from discrimination.”