11th Circuit Court Upholds Florida Injunction Against “Stop WOKE Act”

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by Florida to lift an injunction against the state’s “Stop WOKE Act,” a controversial law that restricts the way race-related issues can be taught in universities.

The law was a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis, who dubbed it the “Stop Wrongs To Our Kids and Employees Act,” or “Stop WOKE Act”.[0] If students are instructed in a way that encourages, supports, teaches, or forces them to accept certain race-related ideas, it would be considered discriminatory. It also places restrictions on how race-related concepts can be addressed in workplace training.[1]

The law was challenged in several lawsuits, including one by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and another by the ACLU, ACLU of Florida, and Legal Defense Fund.[2] It was also blocked in November by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who described the law as “positively dystopian”.[3]

The injunction was challenged by the state and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order on Thursday denying the request.[4]

Alexsis Johnson, assistant counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, expressed her pleasure regarding the court’s decision to maintain the preliminary injunction issued by the federal court in November.[5] In Florida, higher education institutions should be able to offer a quality education, however this is not possible when Black students and teachers are not able to freely express their life experiences or when they fear retribution from politicians for having a factual dialogue on our past.[6]

The court’s decision not to remove the injunction while the appeal is ongoing might strengthen analogous objections to attempts to censor classrooms in Florida and other states, according to a press statement.[7]

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which sued over the legislation, stated that professors must be able to openly discuss topics such as race and gender without hesitation or fear of punishment from the state.[8] Any legislation that restricts the free exchange of thoughts and ideas in academic settings should be deemed invalid in both a legal and a societal sense.[2]

0. “Federal court puts Florida’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’ on hold” Creative Loafing Tampa, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.cltampa.com/news/federal-court-puts-floridas-stop-woke-act-on-hold-15301129

1. “Florida’s Stop WOKE Act continues to be blocked in colleges” Inside Higher Ed, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2023/03/17/floridas-stop-woke-act-continues-be-blocked-colleges

2. “Ron DeSantis Suffers Blow As Court Rejects ‘Dystopian’ Anti-Woke Law” Newsweek, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/ron-desantis-suffers-blow-court-rejects-dystopian-stop-woke-act-injunction-1788438

3. “‘Stop WOKE Act’ remains suspended in universities during legal battle” Florida’s Voice, 17 Mar. 2023, https://flvoicenews.com/stop-woke-act-remains-suspended-in-universities-during-legal-battle/

4. “Appellate ruling means professors are free to teach about race, sexism, as they see fit” Florida Phoenix, 16 Mar. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/03/16/appellate-ruling-means-professors-are-free-to-teach-about-race-sexism-as-they-see-fit

5. “Eleventh Circuit Affirms Decision to Preliminarily Block Unlawful “Stop W.O.K.E.” Censorship Law” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/eleventh-circuit-affirms-decision-to-preliminarily-block-unlawful-stop-w-o-k-e-censorship-law/

6. “Federal appeals court leaves DeSantis’ anti-‘woke’ law blocked in Florida public colleges” CNN, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/17/politics/desantis-anti-woke-law-appeal-block/index.html

7. “Federal appeals court allows injunction against ‘Stop WOKE Act’ to stand” Florida Politics, 16 Mar. 2023, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/596078-federal-appeals-court-allows-injunction-against-stop-woke-act-to-stand

8. “DeSantis’ anti-woke law remains blocked in Florida colleges” Yahoo News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/desantis-anti-woke-law-remains-210600277.html

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