Speed Reads

Awoken once more

Federal judge blocks DeSantis' 'Stop WOKE' education bill

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a key portion of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) "Stop WOKE" Act intended to police speech and classroom content at state colleges and universities. 

Calling it "positively dystopian," District Judge Mark Walker said the bill violated the First Amendment rights of both students and faculty, who — under the 2022 law — had been given standing to sue educational institutions for exposing them to potentially uncomfortable material, such as the 1619 Project on American racial history.

"One thing is crystal clear — both robust intellectual inquiry and democracy require light to thrive," Walker wrote in his nearly 140-page ruling. "Our professors are critical to a healthy democracy, and the State of Florida's decision to choose which viewpoints are worthy of illumination and which must remain in the shadows has implications for us all." This summer Walker blocked a separate provision of the law relating to workplace trainings.

When he unveiled the bill in late 2021, DeSantis touted it as providing "businesses, employees, children, and families tools to fight back against woke indoctrination," citing critical race theory, a branch of legal academic inquiry, as "state-sanctioned racism." During his midterm election night victory speech, DeSantis boasted that under his leadership "we fight the woke in the Legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob."

"Florida," he insisted, "is where woke goes to die."