Florida Students Stage Walkout 2 Learn Protests Against Governor’s Education Policies and Censorship of Marginalized Communities

On April 21, 2023, high school and college students across Florida participated in the “Walkout 2 Learn” rallies and walkouts in protest of Governor Ron DeSantis’ education policies. The protests were organized by state lawmakers and groups like Equity Florida and Equity Through Education Alliance who oppose Florida’s recent changes to public education.[0] During the walkout, these groups briefed students on a “government-censored” history lesson, encouraged enrollment in a virtual African American history course and gave them the opportunity to sign an Active Pledge, which prompts those who sign it to register to vote.[0] The protest was called Walkout 2 Learn and was organized by the Florida-based student activist group Walkout 2 Learn.

The walkouts were in protest of the Stop Woke Act and the Parental Rights in Education Law that restrict the teaching of Black and LGBTQ history in K-12 classrooms.[1] The Act of Individual Freedom restricts the discussion of race and gender in public schools and businesses.[2] State colleges are prohibited from financing diversity, equity, and inclusion programs due to the ban.[2] Additionally, Florida’s House passed three bills targeting the LGBTQ community on Wednesday: SB 254, which bans gender-related health care for trans youth and dramatically limits it for adults despite that care being supported by every major medical association; SB 1438, which bans children from attending drag shows; and HB 1521, which requires transgender people to use the bathroom that correlates with their sex assigned at birth.[3]

The students are attempting to raise awareness about proposed laws that seek to prohibit the instruction of concepts related to race, gender, and intersectionality. These laws would also forbid any form of expression that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, and make it a criminal offense for anyone who harbors an undocumented individual in their vehicle or residence.[4] In addition, they are demonstrating against the recently enacted laws in the state, which include a ban on abortions after six weeks and the allowance of carrying firearms without a permit.[4]

Attendees of the walkouts participated in a five-minute, peer-led, banned curriculum lesson led in defiance of DeSantis’ educational mandates, says Walkout 2 Learn, with each peer instructor receiving instruction from Harvard educators.[5] The organizers also provided the option for students to enroll in a virtual, college-level African American studies course, which organizers are creating along with professors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions across the country.[1]

Government censorship targets the histories of individuals who identify as black, queer, trans, and female.[6] There is no exaggeration in stating that the government of Florida is currently implementing an authoritarian regime over its public education system.[5] The governor seems to have overlooked the fact that students possess certain rights.[6] According to the website, our purpose is to jog his memory.[6] This comprises of an educational experience, a triggering event, and a transformative movement.[5]

Democratic Representative Angie Nixon told local affiliate WJXT, “Republicans claim that they hate cancel culture.[7] They are the ones actively attempting to cancel cultures.[4] Our communities are under threat of cancellation.[4] They’re trying to cancel the ability for our students—our babies—to learn, to be taught true history, Black history, LGBTQ history, trans history, our history, American history.”

While some supporters of the bills maintain that topics like gender identity and sexual orientation are not appropriate for public schools to be teaching children, many students and activists argue that limiting education in this way is an infringement on their rights to learn and understand their own identities and the history of marginalized communities.[8] Students across Florida are mobilizing to resist these policies and fight for the right to a comprehensive and accurate education.[9]

0. “Florida students plan walkout, local rally in response to state public education changes” ActionNewsJax.com, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/florida/florida-students-plan-walkout-local-rally-response-state-public-education-changes/WKVA3SR46RHPJJN57YOQIVLP5M/

1. “Florida students plan walkout in protest of laws that restrict the teaching of LGBTQ, Black history” WUSF Public Media, 21 Apr. 2023, https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/education/2023-04-21/florida-students-plan-walkout-in-protest-of-laws-that-restrict-the-teaching-of-lgbtq-black-history

2. “Florida students walk out of classrooms to protest education policies; DCPS students not allowed to participate” WJXT News4JAX , 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2023/04/21/florida-students-walk-out-of-classrooms-to-protest-education-policies-dcps-students-not-allowed-to-participate/

3. “Palm Bay students join statewide walkout over bills targeting LGBTQ community” Florida Today, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2023/04/21/palm-bay-students-join-statewide-walkout-over-bills-targeting-lgbtq-community/70139083007

4. “Students Across Florida Are Protesting Ron DeSantis’s Entire Agenda” The New Republic, 21 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/172123/students-across-florida-protest-ron-desantiss-entire-agenda

5. “Florida students ‘Walkout 2 Learn’ in opposition to Gov. Ron DeSantis” Mashable, 20 Apr. 2023, https://mashable.com/article/walkout2learn-florida-student-protests-vs-ron-desantis

6. “Florida Students Walk Out of Classrooms to Protest Education Restrictions and Censorship” Seventeen, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.seventeen.com/life/school/a43668982/walk-out-2-learn-florida

7. “Florida high school, college students plan walkout over ‘don’t say gay’ law” UPI News, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2023/04/21/Florida-Dont-Say-Gay-student-walkout/4101682087884

8. “South Florida students walk out to protest ‘authoritarian takeover’ of education” WFLX Fox 29, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.wflx.com/2023/04/21/student-walkouts-planned-protest-authoritarian-takeover-education/

9. “Take a look: Miami-Dade students join statewide rally against DeSantis’ school policies” AOL, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.aol.com/news/look-miami-dade-students-join-002752373.html

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