A federal judge in Florida has issued a preliminary injunction against parts of Florida’s so-called Stop WOKE Act, which restricts teachers’ right to discuss race and gender in the classroom.
“To counter some viewpoints that offend the government, in 2022 the state of Florida passed the so-called ‘Stop the Wake Act’ – renamed (in keeping with the state’s double entendre) the ‘Personal Freedom Act,'” said the chief US district judge. Mark E. Walker wrote in an order issued Thursday. “The law formally prohibits faculty members from expressing objectionable viewpoints in university classrooms, while allowing opposing viewpoints to be expressed unhindered. The defendants argue that under that law, teachers enjoy “academic freedom” as long as they express only those viewpoints approved by the state. It’s positively dystopian.’
Walker is the same judge who wrote a scathing order ruling against the University of Florida in January in a high-profile free-speech lawsuit brought by faculty members there. The Stop Walker Act calls on U.S. Sen. Ben Sasso, UF’s the controversial president-elect, stating that Sasse’s statement of support for academic freedom “is consistent with this Court’s construction, namely, that academic freedom includes the freedom to engage in civil and full discussion of diverse viewpoints. But the jury is out on whether President-elect Sasse’s words can be put into practice given the legal issue at hand in these cases.”
Until now, UF has supported the End to Wake Act, telling faculty in a presentation earlier this year that violating the law carries large financial penalties for the university and that “Essentially, the bill’s message is: ‘No one likes to be told what to think. And that includes students.” The theme of the bill is that educators should not present personal beliefs on a topic as the ‘correct’ point of view or force or encourage students to adopt certain beliefs.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Free Speech, which was one of several groups and individual faculty members to sue over the Stop, Wake Act, said in a statement Thursday that “the law not only unpopular“It is also unconstitutional, as today’s ruling shows.”