Federal judge stops enforcement of so-called Stop WOKE Act in state’s public universities
Ron DeSantis' 'Stop Woke Act' gets a legal setback. Image via WESH.

WOKE ACT
A federal judge called the law 'positively dystopian' and in violation of the First and 14th Amendments.

A federal judge handed the state a defeat in its efforts to stop “woke ideology” at the state’s universities, calling the state’s arguments for the law that restricts instruction on race and history “positively dystopian.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a 139-page ruling on what Gov. Ron DeSantis has called the “Stop WOKE” Act The legislation (HB 7), formally called the Individual Freedom Act (IFA), gave students and employees a reason to sue if instruction or training made them feel uncomfortable or guilty because of their race, gender or national origin.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a University of South Florida professor and a student sued against the law, saying it was a violation of their First Amendment rights and the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. It is one of a number of suits the legislation has spawned.

“It is a happy day not only for Sam and me, but for the institutions of this country,” said Adriana Novoa in a prepared statement. “I hope that the courts will defend the existence of a public education that cannot be manipulated by politicians to push any ideology, now and in the future.”

Novoa is a USF history professor of 17 years, who was among the complainants. That group also included Sam Rechek, a USF student who leads the school’s First Amendment Forum. 

As the Legislature debated the measure during Session, critics argued it would prevent businesses from training employees to be cognizant of how people who have been historically disadvantaged view the world. They also criticized the measure for the way it would stop schools from teaching about the effects of slavery.

Its promulgators, however, said they were stopping “critical race theory,” which they say teaches students to see the country’s history as systemically racist or sexist.

“We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said before signing the bill in Hialeah.

Walker’s ruling is a temporary injunction against the law, which means that key parts of the act can’t be enforced at the state’s universities unless it is appealed at the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which is stacked with federal judges appointed by Republican Donald Trump.

Renee Fargason, a spokeswoman for the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s university system, said the Board doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The legislation is part of a passel of laws considered part of the “culture war” agenda that won legislative approval. Other items allow for wider challenges of instructional materials and the way sexuality and gender are discussed in public schools.

In his opinion against this law, Walker invoked George Orwell’s preface to his novel, “Animal Farm,” entitled, “The Freedom of the Press.”

“Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves,” Walker wrote. “This is positively dystopian.”

“It should go without saying that ‘(i)f liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,’” he added.

He noted the law prohibits eight specified concepts. He said, in practical terms, it could mean that if Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor were invited to speak at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, she couldn’t discuss her own experience described in her memoir, “My Beloved World” because it seems to endorse affirmative action.

“Indeed, in praising the affirmative action policy that opened a ‘special door’ for her, Justice Sotomayor has expressed a viewpoint that the State of Florida deems repugnant and has prohibited,” Walker wrote. “Under the IFA, her words would be per se discrimination if she were to utter them as a guest speaker in a law school classroom.”

The complaint had also been based on how the legislation would have more of an effect on Black educators and students. The ACLU hailed Walker’s decision for those communities because of the way “vague” restrictions would inhibit educators’ ability to teach about the legacy of slavery, white privilege and anti-racism.

“The ability to have honest and open discussions about our history and its impact on Black and Brown communities is crucial to our democracy,” said Jerry Edwards, an ACLU of Florida staff attorney. “When we better understand our country’s past and failures, we allow ourselves the opportunity to pave a better future for all.”

Walker declined to stop the law from being enforced in the state’s K-12 classrooms in this decision, however.

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]


27 comments

  • Michael Paris

    November 17, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    Mark Walker an Obama appointee was a lousy circuit judge and a worse federal judge.

    • Brass Biscuit

      November 17, 2022 at 6:17 pm

      How dare Judge Walker be unimpressed by DeSantis’ heroic culture warring!

  • Tom

    November 17, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    Judge Walker has walked the plank.
    Just appeal it to court of appeals.
    ASAP!

    • Brass Biscuit

      November 17, 2022 at 6:22 pm

      Judge Walker has invoked the 1st Amendment. You say: “Who cares about dystopian or dat-topian?”

  • Tom

    November 17, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    Judge Walker has walked the plank.
    Just appeal it to court of appeals.
    ASAP!

    • Julia

      November 18, 2022 at 8:53 am

      The most important line in this story is the last one: Walker did not stay this law for K-12 students, which demonstrates that he may recognize that the state can set the curriculum for minors, though you never know what is in his mind. Orwell, anyone?. Presumably a college or university student is an adult (I know, I know) but a free speech ruling is a free speech ruling. If a professor at a public university has a constitutional right to claim that white people in 2022 are personally guilty for slavery, then a professor also has the constitutional right to teach that all black people are inferior, or that transgenders are perverts. What goes around comes around.

      • marylou

        November 18, 2022 at 12:52 pm

        What desantis wants to ban *is* the “comes around” part.
        It’s been a long, a long time coming—-Sam Cooke

  • Michael Paris

    November 17, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Mark Walker is an Obama appointee and was a lousy circuit judge and a worse federal judge. It will be appealed and won.

  • Ron the Con

    November 17, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Judge isnt wrong, it does in fact violate an individuals 1st amendment rights, but hey if it isnt the 2nd amendment, republicans dont care

  • tom palmer

    November 17, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    Make Florida free from dissent. That’s the plan by our thin-skinned twerp of a governor. who puts the goober in gubernatorial.

    • Tom

      November 17, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      60% Palmer!
      Stop being fringe extremist! That’s Dems, Moms, women, Independents, and Hispanics. You 5% haters are making yourselves look fringe. Walker has joined the fringe. Shameful for a judge. He can’t release a opinion without it being over 100 plus page diatribe.

      All u need to Understand, you are in the political wilderness as a party. You are lost for a generation. You’ve earned it. Enjoy.

    • Tom

      November 17, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      60% Palmer!
      Stop being fringe extremist! That’s Dems, Moms, women, Independents, and Hispanics. You 5% haters are making yourselves look fringe. Walker has joined the fringe. Shameful for a judge. He can’t release a opinion without it being over 100 plus page diatribe.

      All u need to Understand, you are in the political wilderness as a party. You are lost for a generation. You’ve earned it. Enjoy.

      • Mr. Haney

        November 18, 2022 at 8:52 am

        What planet are you on?

        • marylou

          November 18, 2022 at 2:52 pm

          🎶🌙 Planet Claire!!! 💫🪐

          • Tom

            November 18, 2022 at 5:54 pm

            Planet 60%!
            Losers! 5% haters Haney and Mary hootch obviously the peeps of Florida don’t agree with you haters!
            Losers. DeSantis is loved, Florida sunshine coalition.

          • Tom

            November 18, 2022 at 5:54 pm

            Planet 60%!
            Losers! 5% haters Haney and Mary hootch obviously the peeps of Florida don’t agree with you haters!
            Losers. DeSantis is loved, Florida sunshine coalition.

  • PeterH

    November 17, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    Restricting free speech on college campuses is the Republican idea of The FREEDUMB state of Florida.
    Can’t wait for this Desanctimonious idiot to try running for National leadership!

  • Yrral

    November 18, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Do the right thing,not the White Spiteful thing

    • Tom

      November 18, 2022 at 5:58 pm

      Losers peter h, towel boy and Ural mountain. 60%, I told u loser peter h, DeSantis would kill it with Dems. He did. 60% landslide.

      You two idiots are ignorant neophytes.
      Almost as bad as Haney & Corsin.
      Losers!

    • Tom

      November 18, 2022 at 5:58 pm

      Losers peter h, towel boy and Ural mountain. 60%, I told u loser peter h, DeSantis would kill it with Dems. He did. 60% landslide.

      You two idiots are ignorant neophytes.
      Almost as bad as Haney & Corsin.
      Losers!

      • cassandra of the swamp

        November 19, 2022 at 11:38 am

        Women will regret voting for deSanctimonious when his fertilized egg abortion ban with no exceptions results in their daughter being forced to have her rapist’s baby, or being denied cancer treatment because she is pregnant, or IVF and contraceptives are banned.

        No bodily autonomy. Government surveillance and control of women. Hope they think their sacrifice was worth it to get the government to control “those women’s” behavior.

        —–cnn.com/2022/11/16/health/abortion-texas-sepsis

  • Tim

    November 19, 2022 at 8:34 am

    A woke judge appointed by Democrats ruling against a bill that stops wokeness from being taught in schools…what a surprise.

  • Tom

    November 19, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    You have 15 weeks, and 2 Docs notes afterwards, life of mother. Stop the lies Cassandra. Despicable and scurrilous.

    • marylou

      November 20, 2022 at 2:12 pm

      Desantis promised to expand “pro-life protections”, saying “Not everyone is born into perfect circumstances, but I would like to see *EVERYBODY* have a shot.”

      “Life of mother” is not what many (most?) people think it is. It means she is facing IMMINENT death. She must be actually in the process of dying. The law leaves this vague and fails to give a clear definition of just how almost dead she has to be before the pregnancy can be ended legally. All over America women are being sent home with fevers, infections, severe bleeding, and more because they aren’t dead enough.

      —-cnn.com/2022/11/16/health/abortion-texas-sepsis

      Woman who had to leave Texas : “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the thought process of lawmakers that would rather a full-term baby suffocate to death than allow a mother to make a decision that spares her child that pain.”
      —-cnn.com/2022/09/09/health/abortion-restrictions-texas

      • cassandra of the swamp

        November 20, 2022 at 6:52 pm

        DeSanctimonious’ has vetoed contraceptives for poor women and teens because the Catholic Church sent Ron a letter telling him that birth control causes abortion of a fertilized egg!

        To save all the eggs, Ron vetoed the funding. So, Tom, doesn’t that tell you that Ron will try to save all the embryos and fetuses too?

        Cassandra’s Magic 8 Ball says “Signs Point to Yes”

  • Tom

    November 19, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    You have 15 weeks, and 2 Docs notes afterwards, life of mother. Stop the lies Cassandra. Despicable and scurrilous.

Comments are closed.


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