Florida Senate passes controversial bill that dictates lessons about race

Governor expected to approve bill but opponents say wording is vague, plan court action

The legislation at the center of Thursday's vote, also known as the "Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act," now moves to Gov. Ron DeSantis who is expected to approve it.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate has passed yet another controversial bill from a divisive legislative session that ends Friday. The vote happened on Thursday down party lines, which bans the teaching of critical race theory and related topics in both public schools and private businesses.

HB7 passed the GOP-controlled state Senate by a vote of 24-15. The Individual Freedom Bill also known as the Stop WOKE Act, bans any schooling or workplace training from including ideology that teaches a person’s sex, race or nationality are “morally superior.”

(Read the full Bill below)

Last year, the Florida Board of Education banned critical race theory in public school classrooms. Civil-rights scholars from around the nation have been discussing the theory about the intersection of race and law for about four decades. Amid the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement, the topic was high on the Republican agenda last year.

In December, DeSantis announced a legislative proposal to stop “W.O.K.E. Activism” and critical race theory in schools and corporations. He said WOKE stands for “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”

The bill is among those that have divided the parties as Republicans use their majority to advance conservative culture ordered by DeSantis in an election year.

Senators who said they had the biggest personal stake in the bill pointed out that they were not consulted in the writing of the bill.

The wording in the bill can be vague — critics say words like “guilt” or “complex” are open to interpretation.

Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) questioned the implementation, saying that people in schools and businesses will be confused by the vagueness and, in fear, won’t teach anything at all.

For that reason and others, opponents say this will be headed to court.

First, it goes to the Governor’s desk and it is predicted that he will sign it.

Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) was one of those who spoke out against the bill.

“I came alone by myself at 17 to the United States, fleeing to Alabama of all places, where, believe me, I experienced plenty of racism,” Taddeo said. “I had a lot of experiences that have taught me that no matter what my experiences are, I will never have the experiences of the African-American senators. Experiences that are further broadened by learning from history, studying history, understanding history, judging history.”

In a statement, Taddeo released she said: “The ‘Freest State in the Nation’ is now so free that we’re censoring discussions concerning race in schools and the workplace. As a small business owner, I have pointed out the many ways this bill will make our state less competitive for corporations looking to do work here.”

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.