Florida students, activists protest DeSantis proposal to ban diversity programs in schools News
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Florida students, activists protest DeSantis proposal to ban diversity programs in schools

College students across Florida staged walkouts this week in protest of Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposal to ban diversity, equity and inclusion programs and associated “belief systems” on college campuses.

House Bill 999 targets diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and the study of critical race theory at public Florida universities. The bill includes a ban on university spending to “promote, support, or maintain” any programs, fields of study or activities that support DEI or critical race theory ideology but notably does not define either concept. If passed, the legislation would also prevent universities from using diversity statements or any other “political identity filters” when hiring new staff or considering tenure for existing staff.

House Bill 999 would impact Florida education at a collegiate level, and student groups across the state have organized on-campus protests against the bill. Led by groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), students at all of Florida’s major universities, including Florida State University, The University of Florida and Florida A&M, have begun rallying against the bill. On Tuesday, students at the University of South Florida were arrested by campus police during a protest led by SDS.

In addition to student groups, House Bill 999 has already received backlash from civil rights and educational organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Historical Association (AHA) and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

The ACLS is currently drafting a petition against the bill, arguing:

The promise of academic freedom has played a key role in the growth and strength of higher education in the United States. Thanks to the protection of the free discovery and exchange of knowledge and of faculty decision-making, American colleges and universities have long been the envy of the world. These institutions are valued for the basic and applied research that they conduct; for their role as anchors of industry and of local communities; for providing equitable access to opportunity, increasing over time, for those who have not had such access, including women, people of color, and first-generation college students; and for their capacity to prepare students to be thinking and feeling people in a world larger than their hometowns and states.

In 2022, Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibiting discussion of sexual orientation and identity within certain grade levels, and House Bill 1467, requiring the review of books available in schools and classrooms. DeSantis proposed House Bill 7, nicknamed the “Stop WOKE” Act, which would have restricted discussions of race and gender in higher education classrooms, but the bill was blocked by a federal judge in November 2022.