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Florida Legislature passes controversial "Stop WOKE Act"

CBS News logo CBS News 3/10/2022 Zoe Christen Jones
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Florida's legislature has passed what supporters have called the "Stop WOKE Act," a bill intended to limit how workplaces and classrooms around the state handle discussions surrounding critical race theory. Thursday's 24-15 vote in the state Senate comes on the heels of the passage of another controversial education bill, known by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

The legislation at the center of Thursday's vote, also known as the "Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act," now moves to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been a vocal supporter since the bill's introduction.

"In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," DeSantis said when he supported the bill in December. "We won't allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards. Finally, we must protect Florida workers against the hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired 'training' and indoctrination."

Late last year, CBSN Originals reported there was no evidence critical race theory was being taught in K-12 schools, but some initiatives and programs are inspired by its basic assumptions.

The Trials of Critical Race Theory | CBS Reports 47:10 © Provided by CBS News The Trials of Critical Race Theory | CBS Reports 47:10

The bill's text, while not mentioning critical race theory by name, specifically targets employers who include training on critical race theory or racism, banning any training or credentials course that tries to teach "an individual's moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin." The bill also limits how teachers and other educators teach public school students about race, privilege, oppression and the founding of America.

The news comes only days after the legislature also passed HB1557, also called the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which is focused on limiting classroom discussions surrounding sexuality from kindergarten through third grade. 

Educators and critics of the "Stop WOKE Act" have argued that the legislation will lead to unnecessary censorship in Florida schools.

"This bill's not for Blacks, this bill was not for any other race. This was directed to make Whites not feel bad about what happened years ago," state Senator Shevrin Jones said in 2021. "At no point did anyone say White people should be held responsible for what happened, but what I would ask my White counterparts is, are you an enabler of what happened or are you going to say we must talk about history?"

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