Following passage of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to sign into law another controversial piece of legislation – the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act – which could bar companies from diversity training.
Critics warn that the “Stop Woke” Act – introduced by the governor to codify orders prohibiting Florida schools from perceived “critical race theory” curriculum – could censor lessons on racism and promote a dishonest reading of history.
The “Individual Freedom” bill also applies to workplace diversity training sessions, which could be considered an unlawful employment practice subject to a lawsuit.
The legislation could bar companies from suggesting that “an individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin”.
During debate, bill sponsor and Republican state Rep Bryan Avila specifically singled out the Walt Disney Company’s Reimagine Tomorrow as a programme of concern, claiming that the company educates its employees about “systemic racism” and “critical race theory”.
Disney says Reimagine Tomorrow is about “amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories” and builds on Disney’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Following revelations that Disney entities donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican legislators who supported the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prompting Disney officials to publicly oppose the bill, Governor DeSantis and other Republican officials have attacked the company, a political heavyweight in the state and the state’s largest private employer.
ESPN employees recently joined Disney staff in walkouts over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The company’s LGBT+ staff and allies also organised walkouts to protest the bill.
Governor DeSantis released a statement on his proposed “Stop Woke” bill in December 2021.
“In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” he said. “We must protect Florida workers against the hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired ‘training’ and indoctrination.”
Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez added that she is proud to stand alongside the governor on this bill and with the “woke-free state of Florida”.
Florida’s Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said that the state’s “classrooms, students and even teachers are under constant threat by critical race theory advocates,” and added that “schools should be empowering students with great, historically accurate knowledge and giving those students and their families the freedom to draw their own conclusions.”
The governor said the legislation will prevent schools from “teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards.”
Opponents of the bill claim there is little evidence that critical race theory is being taught in public K-12 classrooms and that the legislation merely provides Republican officials another opportunity for discretionary policing that will discriminate against people of colour when exercising their first amendment rights.
Under Donald Trump’s administration, federal agencies were ordered to identify “un-American propaganda” or any “critical race theory” training in its contracts and spending. President Joe Biden reversed the order, but Republican state legislators across the US have proposed their own bans on critical race theory.