Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveils 'Stop WOKE Act' proposal, taking aim at critical race theory

Katie Sartoris
Daily Commercial

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday unveiled his "Stop WOKE Act," a bill aimed against critical race theory, during an appearance in The Villages. 

The proposal, which stands for "Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act," would statutorily ban the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools and prohibit Florida school districts, colleges and universities from hiring CRT consultants. 

It would also "protect employees against a hostile work environment due to critical race theory training," according to information from the governor's office

DeSantis, a crowd favorite in the sprawling deep-red retirement community, was greeted warmly as he introduced his proposed legislation.

"No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country or to hate each other," he said to raucous applause. 

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Florida and CRT

The concept itself has been around for more than 40 years, but critical race theory has been an explosive topic around the country in the past year or so. The crux of CRT is this: Racism is more than just individual bias; it's embedded throughout legal systems and policy. 

Critics of CRT have said that it divides people and reframes history, while those who study it say it provides a deeper understanding of race in America. 

DeSantis on Wednesday called it "indoctrination." 

The CRT debate hit school boards across the country this year. Parents against the theory attended meetings to voice their concerns.

Beyond Loudoun County:It's not just Virginia. Education and critical race theory are on the ballot across the US in 2022.

Some meetings devolved into shouting matches. In some cases, unruly parents were ejected and arrested. The debate became so personal in some jurisdictions, school board members were doxxed — harassed by the unwanted publication of private information — or received death threats. 

DeSantis on Wednesday was joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Manhattan Institute's Director of the Initiative on Critical Race Theory Chris Rufo, Hillsdale College's Matthew Spalding as well as Laly Jimenez-Hincapie and Lacaysha Howell, two mothers involved in Moms for Liberty, a conservative nonprofit focused on parental rights. 

While each delivered their own remarks applauding DeSantis' "Stop WOKE Act," their message was similar: CRT has no place in schools and that parents should have say in what their kids are taught.

“We need to get back to the basics: reading, math, arithmetic. CRT is not something I agree with at all, especially as a person of color,” Howell said, noting that she was considering removing her kids from public school. “Kids are coming home telling parents they are learning things that are incomprehensible to them. I am biracial and my three kids are biracial. This (CRT) is not what we need to be teaching in our schools."

What the 'Stop WOKE Act' would do

Earlier this year, DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Education to prohibit CRT in schools. The Stop WOKE Act would put that into law. 

It would also give parents "a private right of action to be able to enforce the prohibition on CRT," DeSantis said.

The proposal would allow parents to recoup attorneys fees should they win a lawsuit against a school district with CRT curriculum. 

According to information from the governor's office, the proposal would also "protect employees against a hostile work environment due to critical race theory training" and extend that "private right of action" to employees.  

"How's it not a hostile work environment to be attacking people based on their race or telling people that they're privileged or that they're part of oppressive systems when all they're doing is showing up to work and trying to earn a living?" DeSantis said. 

He called it "corporate-sanctioned racism." 

"And they're trying to shove it down employees' throats." 

DeSantis' proposal will be considered during the 2022 Legislative Session, which starts in January.