Court Halts Florida’s “Stop WOKE” Act

March 16, 2023

A federal appeals court has halted, pending appeal, Florida’s “Stop WOKE” act that curbs the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the state’s public schools from kindergarten through college. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the act into law in April. Among its provisions it prohibits workplaces and schools from promoting concepts that make anyone feel “guilt, anguish or other psychological distress” related to race, color, national origin or sex because of actions “committed in the past.”

On Thursday the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in November by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. He had blocked key provisions of the legislation, calling it “positively dystopian.” 

That decision came out of a lawsuit filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) in September of 2022, challenging the law. 

“Professors must be able to discuss subjects like race and gender without hesitation or fear of state reprisal,” FIRE said in a statement Thursday. “Any law that limits the free exchange of ideas in university classrooms should lose in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.”

In its ruling the 11th Circuit Court said, “Appellants’ motions to stay injunction pending appeal are DENIED. The Clerk is DIRECTED to treat any motion for reconsideration of this order as a non- emergency matter.” The order did not provide a reason for the court’s decision. 

In an email to reporters, Desantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin said the ruling was not about the law itself.

”The court did not rule on the merits of our appeal,” he said. “The appeal is ongoing, and we remain confident that the law is constitutional.”

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