The House is set to vote Thursday on a Republican effort to extinguish “woke” indoctrination in classroom and corporate settings.
The legislation (HB 7), filed in part at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging, would prohibit lessons and trainings which teach that some people are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex or national origin. Additionally, it would ban teachings that an individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Republicans, like bill sponsor and Miami Springs Republican Rep. Bryan Ávila, say all Americans should back the premise that no one is superior to those of other demographics. While the legislation doesn’t address the concept by name, Republicans nationwide have targeted critical race theory, which posits that racial disparities have a continual influence on institutional structures.
As the House on Tuesday prepared the bill for Thursday’s vote, Ávila told members that Floridians are entitled to their dignity as individuals.
“These movements confuse and muddle important history and civics lessons that should be taught by imposing ideologies that twist reality and fostering stereotypes that take us backwards, not forward,” Ávila told House members.
However, Democrats argue the proposal would shield people who don’t want to hear inconvenient truths about American history and society.
Ávila also pointed to corporate training, like diversity training from Coca-Cola, which he said encouraged employees to “be less White.” CBS asks employees to discuss their privilege and Google’s training claims America is a system of White supremacy, he added.
Ávila’s measure, considered an “individual freedom” bill, is among the most controversial proposals of the 2022 Legislative Session. That’s despite lawmakers forgoing the moniker DeSantis developed for the proposal, the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”
When the House bill comes to a vote Thursday, the measure could pass on a party-line vote.
That didn’t stop Democrats from filing 16 amendments to the bill, most hoping to ensure certain lessons make it into the curriculum, like conversations around Black culture and the LGBTQ community. Democrats did get two amendments regarding African studies added to the bill with Ávila’s blessing.
One amendment from Tampa Rep. Fentrice Driskell added that schoolroom lessons shall include the history of “Americans of the African diaspora.” A second amendment, from Miami Gardens Rep. Christopher Benjamin, details that students should develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms.
“When I originally looked at the language of the statute as related to required African American studies, I found it wanting, and this is our effort to make sure that is expanded and it is clear about what we want to be taught in terms of African American studies in Florida,” Benjamin told members.
Still, the core of the bill remains, including prohibiting teachers from “using their personal beliefs and injecting that into the conversation,” Ávila said.
But Hollywood Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson said she has heard from teachers who feel like, with the bill, lawmakers are questioning them despite their degrees in education.
“A lot of teachers have reached out and mentioned that they feel like we don’t trust them,” Woodson said.
After the House passes the bill, the proposal next heads to the Senate. There, a similar bill (SB 148) carried by Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Díaz, awaits a hearing before its final committee, the Senate Rules Committee.
If approved, the legislation would take effect in July.