A new bill in the Florida House of Representatives was introduced in late February, which would allow the state Board of Governors to give direction to schools on removing majors, minors, and courses in such subjects as critical race theory, gender studies, and diversity. The new bill, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rejection of a high school African-American history course, resulted in protests throughout cities in Florida.
Students, residents, and activists are rallying to reject the new bill, House Bill 999. They walked through Tallahassee to the Statehouse protesting these education changes.
DeSantis announced legislation that would prohibit funding for critical race theory or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, and seize control of hiring from faculty committees, according to NBC News.
“In Florida, we will build off of our higher education reforms by aligning core curriculum to the values of liberty and the Western tradition, eliminating politicized bureaucracies like DEI, increasing the amount of research dollars for programs that will feed key industries with talented Florida students, and empowering presidents and boards of trustees to recruit and hire new faculty, including by dedicating record resources for faculty salaries,” said DeSantis, according to a Florida government news release.
Many students at several of Florida’s public universities have sought to fight back, accusing the governor of restricting academic freedom. Students staged a walkout to protest
DeSantis’ efforts to remove DEI programs in public education systems.
The state argued that these programs promote the idea that modern American society oppresses those who are Black, women, and other minorities.
“I believe those programs can greatly benefit students’ personal development and comprehension of modern topics and history,” said SHU student Grace Susanin. “In my opinion, students should have the freedom to select the major and coursework that they find most interesting.”
According to AP News, civil rights leader Al Sharpton said, “Our children need to know the whole story. Not only to know how bad you were but to know how strong they are,” said Sharpton, after DeSantis rejected an African-American history course. “If you would study history, governor, you would have known to mess with us and education always ends in your defeat.”
Over the last year, the governor has signed a law called, “Don’t Say Gay,” which prevents lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity through the third grade as well as instruction deemed inappropriate. He has also approved what is known as the Stop WOKE Act, to restrict certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
Florida is weeks away from its regular legislative session, in which a Republican supermajority stands ready to deliver on the governor’s agenda to pass this bill.
College students across Florida hope to push back the governor’s plan to ban programs of DEI, restriction of courses dealing with race, and policies targeting the LBGTQ+ community and students of color.