On Thursday, August 18, 2022, the ACLU, ACLU of Florida, Legal Defense Fund, and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's HB7 (aka the Stop W.O.K.E. Act) on behalf of a group of Florida educators and students in higher education.
The “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act is a classroom censorship bill that severely restricts Florida educators and students from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender in higher education classrooms. Florida is one of nearly 20 states across the country that have passed similar laws aimed at censoring discussions around race and gender in the classroom.
The lawsuit argues the Stop W.O.K.E. Act violates the First and 14th Amendments by imposing viewpoint-based restrictions on educators (including professors, lecturers, and student teaching assistants) and
students that are vague and discriminatory. Additionally, it argues the Stop W.O.K.E. Act violates the Equal Protection Clause because it was enacted with the intent to discriminate against Black educators and students.
The law prohibits educators from teaching or even expressing viewpoints around racism and sexism that are disfavored by Florida lawmakers, even where those viewpoints are widely accepted and considered foundational information in their academic disciplines. The bill specifically targets and places vague restrictions on educators’ ability to teach and discuss concepts around the legacy of slavery in America, white privilege, and anti-racism.
The groups are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and 14th Amendments and are urging the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would put an immediate stop to the bill and allow students and educators to have full and open discussions around race and gender in the classroom.