A federal judge ruled Jan. 12 that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration did not violate an order blocking the academic provision of the “Stop WOKE” Act, which restricts race-based discussions in higher education classrooms.
A federal appeals court held that a California public high school was within its rights after it disciplined two former students for creating and interacting with an Instagram account that shared posts targeting their Black classmates.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker blocked a key provision of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act, citing First Amendment violations of viewpoint discrimination after Florida claimed that public university professors were bound by state-sanctioned speech.
Florida’s “Stop WOKE” Act has ignited fear and outrage from public university educators as a federal judge decides whether to issue a preliminary injunction to block the law’s academic provision which would restrict gender and race-centric discussions and teachings in the classroom.
Richard Bugg, a theater professor at Southern Utah University filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah Aug. 31. Bugg, represented by attorney Jerry Mooney with financial support from the FIRE Faculty Legal Defense Fund, argues that he is “opposed to the coercion of speech that is taking place on our campus and on most campuses,” the lawsuit stated.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a report on August 31st highlighting a growing pattern of university students and outside groups calling for schools to punish professors for statements they made on sensitive political issues. The study showed that the number of targeting incidents against professors has risen precipitously since 2015.
The university claims that the policy is necessary to comply with the state's anti-CRT law. But, Adam Steinbaugh, director of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education’s Individual Rights Defense Program, says the school's policy goes further than the lawmakers intended and violates the First Amendment of faculty and students.
The Supreme Court's ruling in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. was a big victory for cheerleader Brandi Levy. Still, George Washington Law Professor and student speech expert Catherine J. Ross warns that the decision left unanswered many questions regarding school's authority to regulate off-campus speech.