Florida college and university educators filed a motion to compel Florida officials to follow the court’s preliminary injunction and refuse compliance with Gov. DeSantis’ memo directing universities to collect and provide information about courses related to critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion
FLORIDA – A multi-racial group of Florida university and college educators, the plaintiffs in Pernell v. Florida Board of Governors, filed a motion today to ensure Florida officials’ compliance with a federal court’s preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the unconstitutional Stop W.O.K.E. Act (H.B. 7).
The motion asks the Court to compel Florida officials to comply with the preliminary injunction and nullify Gov. DeSantis’ memorandum, which references the enjoined law and requires the collection of information about activities “related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory” citing preparation of “budget proposals.”
In November 2022, a federal court blocked the unconstitutional Stop W.O.K.E. Act (H.B. 7) from being enforced in higher education. The order for the preliminary injunction—in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven educators and one student across six Florida universities by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Florida, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and pro bono counsel Ballard Spahr—called the legislation “positively dystopian.”
Despite the court’s ruling, Gov. DeSantis’ administration issued a memo in December requiring Florida universities to provide information about potential critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion activity in an attempt to enforce the enjoined law, and restrict Florida educators and students from learning about and discussing issues related to race and gender. The Governor’s direction to compile information about professors’ courses is an attempt to circumvent the court’s issued preliminary injunction and enforce unconstitutional provisions of the law.
Lauren Johnson, senior counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, responding to the memo and today’s filing:
“Rather than honoring a federal court order prohibiting enforcement of Florida’s Stop WOKE Act, Florida officials continue to collect information about professors’ coursework pursuant to that illegal law. A federal court has already found the Stop W.O.K.E. Act likely violates the United States Constitution. With today’s motion, we seek to ensure that educators in public universities across Florida can freely exercise their constitutional rights and teach important concepts about race, gender, and inequality pursuant to their academic disciplines.”
Jerry Edwards, staff attorney of the ACLU of Florida, responded to the memo with the following statement:
“The First Amendment is clear: no politician holds more power than the Constitution. Gov. DeSantis and his allies cannot stifle speech simply because it makes them uncomfortable or to score political points. They cannot continue to silence educators from sharing the truth about our nation’s history simply because they don’t like it. This is just another step towards enforcing this unconstitutional law and is clearly intended to continue to chill the speech of instructors and students in Florida. We cannot allow these threats against free speech to continue.
“Every student has the right to learn about the history and lived experiences of Black people and other marginalized people in our country. This blatant attempt to restrict free speech and erase the history of discrimination and the modern-day repercussions in America by impeding the right to share ideas and receive information in classrooms is dangerous for our democracy and future generations.”
Leah Watson, senior staff attorney in the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU, responded to the memo with the following statement:
“The court was clear that the Stop W.O.K.E. Act violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of educators and students at Florida’s colleges and universities. Any attempt to enforce this unconstitutional law will stifle or completely stop important learning about systemic racism and sexism in higher education classrooms. Students and educators deserve to have a free and open exchange about these issues without the threat that their school’s funding will be stripped in retaliation.”
A copy of the motion can be found here.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.