Gov. Ron DeSantis quotes Martin Luther King Jr. while proposing a Florida bill allowing parents to sue schools that teach critical race theory

·3 min read
Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • A bill in Florida would allow parents to sue schools over critical race theory.

  • In announcing the bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis invoked the "I Have a Dream" speech.

  • Florida has already banned the theory, which has not been taught in Florida classrooms.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced legislation Wednesday that would pave the way for parents in Florida to sue schools that teach critical race theory.

A news release from DeSantis' office said the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, or Stop WOKE Act, "will be the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation and will take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory."

"In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," DeSantis said in a statement. "We won't allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other."

The bill would provide employees, parents, and students a "private right of action" in schools teaching critical race theory and in workplaces that have a "hostile work environment due to critical race theory training." Parents who win lawsuits would also be entitled to collect attorneys' fees.

While announcing the bill, DeSantis invoked the civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

"You think about what MLK stood for. He said he didn't want people judged on the color of their skin but on the content of their character," DeSantis said Wednesday. "You listen to some of these people nowadays, they don't talk about that."

Critical race theory, a decades-old academic concept and legal framework that examines America's history of racism and how it continues to affect the US, has become a popular target for Republican politicians. They often mischaracterize it, incorrectly claiming it depicts all Black people as victims, attempts to make white people feel guilty, and teaches students to hate America.

"Critical race theory is a practice. It's an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it," Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist who is a law professor at UCLA and Columbia University, told CNN.

Though Republicans have focused on the idea of critical race theory being taught to kids in school, there is little evidence of it actually being taught. In announcing the Stop WOKE Act, DeSantis' office cited some "national examples of Critical Race Theory" in schools, none of which occurred in Florida.

The Florida State Board of Education banned the teaching of critical race theory in state classrooms in June.

A Democratic Florida state lawmaker criticized the Stop WOKE Act in a tweet Wednesday.

"FFS. Stop creating fake problems @GovRonDeSantis to divide us & start focusing on crises in front of us," state Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

Teachers in states where anti-critical-race-theory legislation had been enacted or proposed told Insider's Ashley Collman the theory was not commonly taught in schools and was too high-level a concept for K-12 classrooms. Some also said they worried the bills could have a "chilling" effect on education.

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