Florida GOP lawmakers are working to expand provisions in the state’s Civil Rights Act to protect individuals from being subjected to certain instructional materials regarding race or sex in Florida’s classrooms and workplaces, potentially leading to civil actions or administrative proceedings.
At issue is an ongoing effort from the DeSantis administration to dictate how race and other topics are discussed in schools, as well as an increasing effort to limit the freedom of private businesses to make decisions for their companies.
Rep. Bryan Avila, a Republican who represents part of Miami-Dade County and the sponsor of HB 7, says that the legislation is an affirmation that people will not be judged by characteristics such as race or sex.
“This bill makes it clear, that in Florida, people will be judged as individuals — by their words, their characters, and their actions,” Avila said at a Wednesday House Judiciary Committee meeting. The bill passed 14 to 7 (with one vote missing), and with Democrats in opposition.
“This bill cripples the ability for teachers to teach effectively,” said Rep. Dianne Hart, who represents part of Hillsborough County, said at the Wednesday meeting.
“Every teacher I’ve ever encountered, does their job from not only an academic standpoint, but from a personal one,” Hart said. It is their personal experiences that they use to make the curriculum come alive for their students. Even more so for the Black and Brown students on the topic of race and discrimination.”
HB 7 expands the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, according to the bill analysis, which “secures for all individuals within the state freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.”
The bill affects areas of education and employment, saying that individuals should not be subjected to training or materials that espouse principles such as:
/”Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.”
/”A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
/”A person’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.”
/”A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.”
/”A person should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.”
These principles would also apply to students and school employees under the Florida Educational Equity Act, should the bill become law. There is a Senate version of the bill also moving through the 2022 legislative session.
“Those are principles that I think each and everyone of us — whether you’re a Democrat, whether you’re a Republican, whether you’re an Independent — I think everyone would agree that when you look at those principles, no one would disagree with any one of those principles,” Avila said at the Wednesday committee meeting.
Ben Diamond, a Democrat who represents part of Pinellas County, is opposed to the bill.
“What we’re prepared to do is to say that if a business is engaged in the perfectly lawful exercise of diversity training, and someone in the business feels a sense of guilt or sense of anguish or has some emotional reaction to that, they can sue. How is this helping our businesses in our state?” Diamond said.
Much of the debate and public testimony centered around the bill’s effect on schools and whether it would curtail frank discussions about United States history and race.
Aliva said that the bill does not “ban the teaching of historical facts about slavery, about sexism, about racial oppression, racial segregation, or racial discrimination.”
But many of the Democratic lawmakers disagreed.
At issue is an ongoing effort to dictate how race and other topics are discussed in classrooms.
In June, the Florida State Board of Education approved a new rule that prohibits critical race theory in classrooms, claiming that the theory “distorts historical events” and is “inconsistent” with the state board’s approved standards. The new rule also banned materials from The New York Times’ “1619 project,” which focuses the establishment of the United States from perspective of Black people.
Rep. Hart brought up this attack on Critical Race Theory in debate on HB 7 Wednesday.
“Critical Race Theory is not even taught in K-12 schools. It’s, of course, used in law schools to increase understanding of the implication of laws. So the question becomes: What is this really about?”
Ida Eskamani, representing the group Florida Rising and Florida Immigrant Coalition, said during public testimony:
“This legislation is a part of a dangerous and shameful nationwide agenda to censor discussions of race and gender equality in the classrooms and the workplace.”
“These bills don’t just set back progress this nation has made in addressing racism and sexism, they also rob young people of a fact-based education and blatantly suppresses speech about race, gender, and our collective history,” she continued.
She is the sister of Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. She noted that a school district in Central Florida recently canceled a professor’s lecture on civil rights “because these policies are creating a climate of fear among historians.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel from earlier this week: “A Flagler College history professor planned to spend an hour Saturday teaching Osceola County teachers about the civil rights movement, his area of expertise.
But days before the workshop, the school district canceled the event because administrators wanted to vet the materials to make sure they did not run afoul of Florida’s new rule banning “critical race theory,” or CRT, in schools.”
But supporters of these initiatives to limit how race is discussed in classrooms and in the workplace claim that certain teaching and materials espouse that a person’s race or sex determine a person’s character.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican who represents part of Pinellas County, said in a written statement Wednesday:
“These movements have tried to hijack the important conversation about race and use it as a pretext to attack institutions– ranging from capitalism to the very idea of objective truth in the hard sciences.”
Sprowls continued: “They want to use the sins of the past to shut down dissent in the present. HB 7 ensures Florida’s workplaces and schools are places where we can have healthy dialogues about race or diversity without losing sight that we are all, first and foremost, unique individuals.”
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
This type of legislation is long overdue. I can’t count the times I’ve been approached by a minority co-worker looking to discuss controversial topics that are not relevant to the tasks & projects in the workplace. And this happens everywhere. It’s uncomfortable work environment because it’s the cancel culture at work. Most employees are there to do their work, get paid & go live their lives with their families. Others seem to be there to incite & promote their agenda as a toxic work place. The extremes are the problems with any work force.
I am a white chick. I worked with a black girl who mentioned a few times that some people in my office of mostly white people were racist. It made me feel uncomfortable. I figured she was just trying really hard to look for it so she would always find it.
Then one day she was crying in the bathroom. I asked her what was wrong. She said she was tired of being treated poorly because she is black. Again, I didn’t notice any blatant mistreatment up to that point, but she was crying so I listened to her. She ended up crying on my shoulder – she left a big tear spot on my shirt and everything. I thought about it the rest of the day. She is not Meryl Streep – nobody is that good of an actress.
So I started paying more attention to how people treated her vs how they treated others. In less than a week, I noticed at least 10 instances of people treating her differently. It ranged from the language used about her, to full out nasty comments to her face. Example: If she was 5 minutes late because her kids’ bus was late, she was called lazy or disorganized. Other people were late and said they overselpt, and it was laughed off . I never noticed it before because it wasn’t happening to me. It was a really eye opening experience. Jimbo, if other people discussing things makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should try to understand what they are saying. Maybe you will learn something.
Dennis C Rathsam says
What ever happened to free speech?????
The Cult Republican party are interferring in our election process now on who can vote when and where. They are now telling schools what books students should read and not read.
They are causing discrimination that existed in the 40, 50’s and 60’s. We are going backwards and this is not good for our country or its people.
Everyone has a relative that came from somewhere else, everyone has a right to learn about our countries history from the start up to today that is called HISTORY.
Next thing you know they will want to bring back slavery.
“Are Lawmakers Seeking to Censor Discussions of Race and Gender in Classrooms and the Workplace?”
… Is this a trick question?
Of course they are. It’s obvious to anyone who actually looks at the totality of all the regressive actions taken by our (so-called) Governor and Legislature.
Over it says
Can we all agree that being “free” in FL is a big joke? So much governmental overreach and interference. I really feel for our teachers. I would prefer reality based education for my children and if it makes them feel bad about their ancestors, that’s OK. The only thing I’m scared of is history repeating. We are supposed to learn from it, but FL administration doesn’t want you to do that because educated voters might then be able to see through their frivolous and ludicrous leadership.
“History will judge them” is not a compelling argument when Florida is making it illegal to teach history.
With comments about Repubs, I think we need to vote them out of office. Negative comments about the Repubs. sound good, but voting against them is much better.