Judge allows challenge to Stop WOKE Act to move forward

Teachers and professors argue the law violates their free speech.

A federal judge will allow a case challenging Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act.” to proceed.

While U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last month declined to stop the enforcement of the law, he denied a motion to dismiss the case entirely. A group of teachers has sued the state law (HB 7), which went into effect at the beginning of July, as an infringement of their First Amendment rights in the classroom. Walker’s order makes clear the First Amendment does protect classroom discussion to a degree.

He points to specific complaints from one of the plaintiffs, Robert Cassanello. The University of Central Florida professor teaches courses on the Civil Rights movement, the Jim Crow era and Reconstruction, arguing in the lawsuit against the state that the new law restricts his ability to teach the class accurately.

The law prohibits lessons and training which tell students and employees they are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race, color, sex, or national origin and bans instruction they are personally responsible or should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

Attorneys for the state argue Cassanello can still teach subjects like Jim Crow laws but must teach only “‘in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.”

Walker, in his order, hints that the law may cross a line between setting curricula and violating Cassanello’s free speech.

“Is that really all the First Amendment offers, that you can speak all you want as long as you toe the government line?” Walker wrote.

The various claims provided by different educator plaintiffs vary in the degree to which First Amendment questions may apply, he wrote, but the case raises questions that need answers, nonetheless. He rejects the state argument that since the law doesn’t ascribe decisive punishments for teachers running astray of the law that it’s therefore impossible to violate free speech.

“Without question, a defendant can chill speech even if it lacks the power to punish,” Walker wrote. “For example, a defendant could threaten to refer the plaintiff to an entity that has the power to punish the plaintiff.”

At least for some of the plaintiffs bringing suit, the case will now continue. Cassanello, Manatee County American government teacher Donald Falls and Leon County substitute teacher Jill Harper, will be able to argue the matter in court.

Walker did make clear the case should proceed with the Florida Board of Education and the Board of Governors, not individual elected officials such as Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody.

The law in question also regulated the teaching of corporate diversity classes, but Walker said All Things Diverse president Tammy Hodo could not remain a plaintiff. Her firm provides diversity training with clients, but Walker said she has not shown she has lost any business due to the law.

He also said an incoming kindergarten listed as a plaintiff in the case lacked standing.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Joe Corsin

    July 10, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    DeSantis collaborated with ISIS against coalition forces in Iraq…also raped a corpse. Vote Crist for governor…

    • Tom

      July 10, 2022 at 9:28 pm

      This judge needs to be removed, he’s not a super legislature, or legislator. He’s clearly attempting to write legislation as a lawmaker.

      His lack of juris “prudence” is overwhelming, he clearly thinks he’s a disciple of liberalism or liberal advocacy. On every issue, time after time he’s constantly being used by far left activists and complying. He needs to be brought up before the judicial panel.

      He is not the vanguard of liberalism woke judicial rulings. This is blatant partisan judicial interference.

      • Ron DeSantis Sucks

        July 11, 2022 at 5:34 am

        He’s following the 1st amendment as incorporated by the 14th. This judge is making the right call. Professors have academic freedom (and you should want that for them, Tom — conservative professors exist, too).

        • Tom

          July 11, 2022 at 8:20 am

          Hey suck head.

          Yeah, it just so happens they are liberal puek professors, advocating extremism and socialism.

          Walker ruled earlier this year that all voting rights legislation needs to be approved by his court on election law.

          Thank God it was appealed, it will be approved under appeal. He’s engaging in judicial rewrite, not review.

          The liberal advocates run to him as a stop gap. Don’t hide under const for his over zealous rulings.

  • Tom

    July 10, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    You are a sick demented bastard!
    Pathetic pig!

  • PeterH

    July 10, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Here are some irrefutable facts for Fox readers to absorb:

    2022 Gallop polling on PARTY AFFILIATION

    Independent voters install elected officials.

    FACT 2;

    If you’re tired of DeSantis’s culture war to win elections……VOTE. TODAYS REPUBLICANS ARE AMERICA’S PROBLEM.

    • Tom

      July 10, 2022 at 6:55 pm

      Shut the hell up you moron, ignoramus.

      No one belongs to Lincoln besides you. Go away.

      • Tom

        July 10, 2022 at 8:27 pm

        You idiot, Florida GOP have continued in pulling away from Dems head to head! FGOP now up by 200,000 in party registration. By election it will be 275,000 to 300,000. He will carry over 98%, or greater of GOP.

        Independents love America’s Gov, he will carry 55%, or greater. Hispanics will be 55% to 60% for Ron. Even Dems, 10% or greater.

        You have no understanding of electoral politics ignoramus peter h.

        Fraud abs or chameleon have no chance!

  • Lynda

    July 10, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    RE: WOKE Act challenge moves forward.

    I was a teacher for a short time in the 1970’s. I soon received better income opportunities from corporations and left teaching. Corporate training and education actually paid people to attend training and education events to learn about new products, new guidelines for using IT tools and new compliance regulations. So a larger salary and more respect for my contributions to corporate goals was and continues to be attractive to many outstanding teachers. Our children pay a high price for losing good teachers.

    I am horrified by the restrictions the current trum-pest/Republican legislature and the current governor are placing on college-level professors as well as on kindergarten to third grade teachers and all other grade levels. Students leaving Florida universities and schools will continue to be at the bottom of potential candidates for any career requiring an understanding of world realities— unless their parents are able and willing to supplement the restricted education Florida provides due to a radical right agenda.

    As an aside I assume the paraphrase of the professor of US history’s arguments included a typo not included in an original quotation from the lawsuit. In no way does the professor “teacher” his classes. If this misuse of “teach” was part of the lawsuit arguments, the professor needs a lawyer with a better staff.

  • Hiram "Hi" Erdelp

    July 10, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    “Teachers and professors argue the law violates their free speech.”

    These dunces are not speaking for FREE! They are speaking as paid employees of the citizens of Florida, and as paid employees they speak what their employer wants them to speak during their hours of employment. On their own time, they can run up and down the streets of Gainesville and Tallahassee with their pants fluttering from their heads if they wish (I shouldn’t give them ideas.)

    • PeterH

      July 10, 2022 at 5:28 pm

      Communist Countries and other right wing totalitarian regimes tell teachers what they can and cannot say in the classroom. Communist Countries also burn and ban books.

      An educator’s job is to prepare and assimilate students for today’s diverse dynamic culture that surround them. Culture is not defined by some imaginary magical 1940’s place inside the heads of uneducated parents or Ron DeSantis.

      So no….. taxpayers WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to groom or influence what is being taught in American classrooms.

    • marylou

      July 10, 2022 at 8:31 pm


      Better check with the Extreme Supremes. As long as the teachers chant a couple OMGs and holy craps, they should be okay!

    • Ron DeSantis Sucks

      July 11, 2022 at 5:35 am

      Do you not understand the concept of academic freedom? It applies in this case.

  • PeterH

    July 10, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    WAKE UP!

    The average wage in the USA is $32.00 per hour.

    Trumpster need to ask themselves:

    “…what went wrong. what did I do wrong. WHY AM I NOT MAKING $32.00 per hour?

    Could it that I dropped out of high school?
    Are employers upset that I have a felony conviction?
    Have my neighbors or past employers said that I’m more interested in guns and MAGA ….. then in work?
    Did a past employer mention that I failed two drug tests?
    Are employers unhappy that 70% of my body is covered with tattoos?


    • Tom

      July 11, 2022 at 8:13 am

      Wage increases are up 7.8% in Florida. You are a racist peter h!
      $32.00 is a Union extreme wage.

Comments are closed.


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