The NAACP Board of Directors issued a formal travel advisory Sunday for the state of Florida over a series of laws recently signed by Governor Ron DeSantis that the organization says “[attempt] to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”
The travel advisory reads:
Please be advised that Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other minorities.
The advisory cited specific Florida policies including SB 266 and HB 7.
SB 266, signed into law just last week, effectively prohibits higher education institutions from spending state funds on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In the words of Governor DeSantis, this law will help “treat people as individuals” by banning programs that “[stand] for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination.” This bill builds on SB 7044, which required periodic reviews of tenured faculty members and mandated professors to post their textbook lists online 45 days before their first classes.
In March, college students in Florida organized numerous walkouts in protest of HB 999, a similar proposal being worked on in the state’s House of Representatives.
HB 7, also known as the Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act (“Stop W.O.K.E. Act”), was enacted in 2022. It attempted to ban “woke indoctrination” by limiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory at public universities and restricting diversity training among employers. A federal court blocked parts of HB 7 after finding them unconstitutional.
The advisory also mentioned other pieces of legislation in Florida including HB 1, SB 7066, and HB 543, which the NAACP says threaten civil rights in the state.
HB 1, enacted in 2021, created new criminal penalties for protestors, prohibited state grants to any government entity that attempted to defund the police and denied bond to anyone who participated in a disorderly assembly until their first court appearance. A federal court ruled it unconstitutional in March.
SB 7066, passed in 2019, required felons to pay outstanding fines resulting from their conviction before being granted the right to vote. Although a federal district judge originally blocked this law, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed.
HB 543 was passed in April 2023. It eliminated licensing requirements for concealed carry of a firearm, permitting concealed carry in most public places. The statute is set to take effect on July 1.
The travel advisory concludes with:
If you are a resident of Florida, we ask you to join us in our advocacy efforts to defeat the regressive policies of this Governor and this state legislature. Our greatest asset is the voice of the millions who speak up every day to protect our democracy and our civil rights.
According to Governor DeSantis, his education reform is intended to “bring more accountability to the higher education system.” In an official news release from January 2023, Governor DeSantis said:
In Florida, we will build off of our higher education reforms by aligning core curriculum to the values of liberty and the Western tradition, eliminating politicized bureaucracies like DEI, increasing the amount of research dollars for programs that will feed key industries with talented Florida students, and empowering presidents and boards of trustees to recruit and hire new faculty, including by dedicating record resources for faculty salaries.