ACLU moves forward in ‘Stop W.O.K.E.’ lawsuit in Florida

ACLU moving forward in lawsuit against Stop Woke Act
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 10:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2022 at 10:37 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Some educators believe the Stop W.O.K.E. Act could negatively impact students.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is moving forward in a lawsuit challenging Governor Ron DeSantis and House Bill 7, also known as the Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees (“Stop W.O.K.E.”) Act.

”The barriers need to be lifted as well as the the real concern here of basically the doctrine of denial being forced upon the students to be the accepted and approved state thought,” Plaintiff LeRoy Pernell, professor of law at Florida A&M University, said.

Prof. Pernell fears the Stop W.O.K.E. act could make the next generation insensitive to racial issues people face today if they are left out of teaching.

“I fear that this law will cause my professors to avoid discussing race and gender altogether, which will result in my perspective and lived experience as a Black, female student being effectively minimized and erased in the classroom,” plaintiff Johana Dauphin said. “As a student, I deserve to see myself and the issues that impact me — including issues around race and gender — reflected in my classroom discussions.”

The bill was originally signed back in April when Gov. DeSantis said “No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race.”

Since then the ACLU has filed a lawsuit saying this act puts restrictions on educators that they see as discriminatory.

“All educators and students have a right to teach and learn free from censorship or discrimination,” said Leah Watson, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “The First Amendment broadly protects our right to share information and ideas, and this includes educators’ and students’ right to learn, discuss, and debate issues around systemic racism and sexism. In an effort to prevent progress towards racial justice, the Stop W.O.K.E. Act deprives educators and students of important tools to challenge racism and sexism. We urge the court to put an immediate stop to this discriminatory classroom censorship bill.”

Prof. Pernell said many laws over the years have been motivated by race and he said it’s important that the law students learn and understand all parts of history.

The ACLU of Florida filed a preliminary injunction on Wednesday which could put a stop to the act.

“The Stop W.O.K.E. Act is a shameful result of propaganda and fear-mongering,” said Jerry Edwards, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “A free state does not seek to curtail the inalienable right to free expression in its college and university classrooms. Both the passage of this law and the conversations in support of it all have one thing in common: the people in power are terrified of students learning the truth about horrific racial violence that many residents in this state either survived or perpetuated. If we do not learn from the past, we are merely damned to repeat its gruesomeness.”

At this time the hearing date has not yet been set.