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An injunction on Florida's Stop Woke Act remains in place but uncertainty persists on campuses

Florida State University's James D. Westcott Jr. Memorial Building can be seen in Tallahassee.
Lauren Witte
/
Fresh Take Florida
Florida State University's James D. Westcott Jr. Memorial Building can be seen in Tallahassee.

An injunction remains in place as the NAACP and other organizations await a ruling on whether Florida’s Stop Woke Act can be applied to the state’s public colleges and universities. But the wait-and-see mode has not stopped the state from trying to enforce the law.

An injunction remains in place as the NAACP and other organizations await a ruling on whether Florida’s Stop Woke Act can be applied to the state’s public colleges and universities. But the wait-and-see mode has not stopped the state from trying to enforce the laws.

Universities and colleges aren't commenting on the Stop Woke Act nor the newest laws that target DEI programs. They've fallen silent on the issue, and attorneys for the plaintiffs say they are not surprised that institutions in the lawsuit are choosing to remain silent due to the legal uncertainty.

Rachel Duncan, a student at Florida A&M University, worries about the impact the laws could have on future students.

“I think it will affect them negatively," she says. Duncan is a tour guide at FAMU, and "I have a bunch of different students who come in and they plan on majoring in African American studies or minoring in African American studies and they have made this plan for themselves and now they have to change it because they’re not going to be offered those classes.”

The original law from 2022 limits how aspects of race, history and sexuality can be taught and discussed in public schools. This year, lawmakers expanded the measure to block public institutions from spending on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. Plaintiffs have sued over the original, 2022 law.

Supporters argue the Stop Woke Act doesn’t ban institutions from teaching subjects like African American History (and the bill does include a carve-out stating schools must teach about slavery) but critics say that all students and educators should be able to have a free and open exchange about race in the classroom and not feel forced to self-censor discussions that erase the history of Black and Brown people.

As of now, the state is not allowed to enforce the Stop Woke Act. But a lot of questions remain unknown. Such as, what programs will be affected if the law is deemed constitutional?

Terri Watson is the head of City College of New York’s DEI Department. She left the state prior to the rise of the DEI and anti-woke backlash. Watching the situation from afar, Watson says she’s glad to have left when she did.

“I know as a black woman scholar and I earned my Ph.D. at Florida Atlantic University, but I’ll never go back. I know I can take my talent elsewhere where I’m appreciated and respected," she says.

Already, there are concerns that the state’s Republican-led efforts to crack down on higher education could eventually begin to hurt those schools.

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