Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has introduced the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act" that takes aim against critical race theory in schools and corporations.
DeSantis unveiled the proposed legislation at a news conference in Wildwood Wednesday, calling it the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation.
The legislation would codify the state's Department of Education prohibition on teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools and prohibit school districts, colleges and universities "from hiring woke CRT consultants."
The act also would protect employees "against a hostile work environment due to critical race theory."
"In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," DeSantis said in a statement. "We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards."
The theory is a framework legal scholars developed in the 1970s and 1980s that centers on the view that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and serves to maintain the dominance of whites in society.
Though there is little to no evidence it is taught in public schools, critical race theory became politicized following the protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Critics say those who want to limit it seek to whitewash American history and downplay injustices still happening today.
"When you talk about critical race theory, we're talking about Black history, which is American history," said state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who added that "DeSantis is creating a problem that doesn't exist."
"It is unfortunate that instead of running on ideas that would improve people's daily lives, Republicans would rather manufacture a crisis of a nonissue," Jones said.
The proposed legislation follows two recent bills in Florida, including one signed into law by DeSantis last summer that requires state universities to conduct yearly assessments on whether there is “viewpoint diversity" and intellectual freedom at their schools. The second bill, introduced in September by a Republican lawmaker from the Space Coast, would ban the use of critical race theory at all levels of Florida government.
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