After the Board of Education took steps this summer to ban critical race theory in schools, at least one lawmaker wants to put a stop, at all levels of government, to what some consider an academic movement.
Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, has filed a measure (HB 57) that includes a ban on using critical race theory in training, policy or more in public schools, colleges and universities. The ban also extends to state agencies, county and municipal governments and private contractors working with the government.
Critical race theory is based on the premise that racism is embedded within American society and institutions. The controversial theory became a national flashpoint for Republicans over the summer, a year after the country faced a social reckoning over nationwide “Black Lives Matter” protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Fine filed the proposal late last month, in the gear-up to the 2022 Legislative Session. And while the topic has fallen to the wayside since the early summer, with the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic and the withdrawal from Afghanistan dominating recent news cycles, the Brevard County lawmaker took a stab at reigniting the issue as legislative meetings approach.
“Critical race theory is racist at its core, and has no place in the state of Florida,” Fine said Wednesday. “The notion that people are good or bad based on the color of their skin runs counter to everything our country was founded on. It is insidious, it is evil, and it is propagated to make our children hate their country. And as we have seen in Brevard County, radical politicians and bureaucrats are indoctrinating this hate into our principals, teachers, and ultimately, students.”
In June, the State Board of Education approved changes to civics education standards at Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ request. The board voted after members of the public squared off on the rule, with some saying it would whitewash history and others saying it would prevent Marxist theory from being taught in Florida classrooms.
Critical race theory wasn’t directly taught in public schools before the ban. But Fine sought to “disabuse that notion” that it doesn’t exist in lessons and training.
“In the midst of the greatest crisis to public education in history — responding to COVID — Brevard School Board politicians thought it was more important to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a CRT trainer who stated, ‘White America has a deep and thick appetite for Black death and violence upon Black people,’” Fine relayed. “The philosophy these politicians are pushing is repugnant and repulsive, and this legislation will eradicate it root and branch.”
Brevard Public School Board officials said the screenshots Fine highlighted as evidence over the summer were taken out of context and did not reflect any kind of plan to teach students critical race theory, according to Florida Today.
Democrats, including Agriculture Commissioner and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, criticized DeSantis for seeking a “race war and culture war” with the summer’s critical race theory ban.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in July filed legislation, titled the Protecting Students From Racial Hostility Act, that would ban critical race theory in schools across the country. However, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate has not touched the bill.
Fine’s bill goes further than prohibiting critical race theory. It would ban a 10-point list of “divisive concepts,” including topics around sexism and “race or sex scapegoating.” The proposal also bans teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist and that individuals are inherently racist, sexist and oppressive based on their own race or sex.
Agency inspectors general would need to review compliance with the law at least once a year.
The proposal also clarifies that it does not ban racial, cultural, ethnic or intellectual diversity and inclusiveness efforts, as long as they don’t conflict with the divisive concepts.
Fine said the measure, which would take effect in July, builds off DeSantis’ leadership, codifies it into state law and expands it.
“I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues to fight this hateful ideology and continue to advance Florida as a beacon of freedom and American exceptionalism,” Fine added.
Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer has joined Fine in sponsoring the bill. However, no Senate counterpart has filed a companion measure.
Committee meetings for the 2022 Session begin Monday. The 60-day Legislative Session opens Jan. 11.