Legislation taking aim at ‘woke’ instruction receives Senate committee nod
Manny Diaz. Image via Colin Hackley.

Democrats warn the legislation opens up businesses to a new kind of lawsuit.

A bill regarded as among the first of those rooting out what’s being called critical race theory — prohibiting certain kinds of instruction and training — cleared its first hurdle Tuesday, passing the Senate Education Committee.

Miami Republican Sen. Manny Diaz Jr.’s bill (SB 148) is called “Individual Freedom.” And it passed along party lines but not before bringing grave warnings from Senate Democrats about the way it prohibits any training or instruction that causes an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin.”

Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky of Boca Raton called it “the most unfair authoritarian bill” and warned it could subject businesses to new causes of action never imagined before.

“Imagine a man sitting in a sexual harassment training, and he doesn’t like the way it’s portrayed,” Polsky said. “And then, two days later, he is terminated for something. He’s going to sue under this law.”

Diaz said he’s not trying to stop conversations about historical wrongs or whitewash history or pretend that discrimination doesn’t happen — as some have said his legislation does.

“The aim of this is to clearly have those tough conversations and have it done in a matter where there’s an open dialogue,” Diaz said.

Diaz said he’s trying to stop instruction that comes from a particular perspective.

“If the teacher’s perspective or their teaching is actually imposing on a student that just because they’re white, they’re anti-immigrant and that view is being imposed on them … that would be a violation of this,” he said. “Having a discussion of the fact that we have had that occur in our country is valid. Having it imposed on an individual just because of their background is not OK.”

Miami Republican Rep. Bryan Avila has filed a similar bill (HB 7) in the House.

Diaz said it would be up to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, and possibly the Attorney General, to decide if violations have occurred when a complaint arises.

Critical race theory has burst on the political scene, with conservatives aiming at instruction and training that they say imposes the idea that much of American history is one long struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. Florida educators say it’s not taught in Florida schools, however. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed giving parents the right to sue over the same kind of complaint; Sen. Marco Rubio also filed legislation entitled Protecting Students From Racial Hostility Act,

Karen Mazzola, legislation committee chair for the Florida PTA, said this bill is a solution in search of a problem.

“There’s really no issue that’s been identified that this bill fixes,” she said. “In fact, it’s just the opposite.”

Still, Keith Flaugh, CEO and co-founder of the Florida Citizens Alliance, said he’s glad Diaz’s legislation is following the model of Oklahoma and Iowa’s state laws on this, but he recommends adding a bit more.

“We’d like to see some specific enforcement,” he said.

Miami Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said the bill represents censorship and urged his colleagues to turn away from the appeal to national politics it presents.

“We must talk about (how) Blacks were oppressed, Blacks were beaten, Blacks were lynched, Blacks were called inhumane names,” he said. “If we could also talk about our transgender community. We could talk about gays; we can talk about all of this … Censoring what’s inside our educational institutions is not the way that we as a body should be moving … We are much better than this.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Alex

    January 18, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    Oh this is precious.

    Touting “freedoms” they can’t name or describe while passing a bill that takes freedom of speech.

    Welcome to DeSantistan and it’s authoritarianism wrapped in the stars and stripes with lipstick and a pretty bow.

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  • KwkRoss

    January 18, 2022 at 7:15 pm

    Kids learning about slavery , how Black people were lynched , murdered and kept as slaves for generations is somehow bad? Why are Republicans so afraid ? It did not happen then?

    In China , Kids learn about how great Mao’s regime was , In spite of massacres and murders committed by him.. Same here in America, Racist Republicans are trying to hide the past. I am sure they will change the text books to teach kids how great the slavery was for black people..

    Republican Party QOP is 100% racist. Why do they need keep proving that again and again?

  • Conservatives

    January 19, 2022 at 7:45 am

    Way to go Mr. Diaz, up here in Jacksonville, we support you 100%!!!

Comments are closed.


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