Bill would expand Florida ban on critical race theory beyond K-12 public schools

Lawmaker wants to expand ban to colleges when lawmakers reconvene next year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The Florida Board of Education (BOE) approved a rule in June that mandates K-12 public schools teach American history based on “universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and bans “critical race theory” (CRT) from being taught.

The original rule, based on an executive order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis, barred teachers from attempting “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” but never mentioned CRT.

The rule ultimately adopted by the BOE excludes the “indoctrinate” language but cites CRT in outlawing “fiction or theory masquerading as facts, such as critical race theory” in K-12 schools.

But there’s still too much CRT indoctrinating going on, says Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is calling on Florida lawmakers to expand and codify DeSantis’ order and the BOE rule banning it when they convene Jan. 11 for their 2022 legislative session.

Fine and Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, on Aug. 30 pre-filed House Bill 57 for the 2022 session, which seeks to ban use of CRT in training, policy or any activity in K-12 public schools, all 12 public Florida universities, all 28 public state colleges, state agencies, municipal governments and private businesses that contract with state and local governments.

“Critical Race Theory is racist at its core, and has no place in the State of Florida,” Fine said in a Wednesday statement. “The notion that people are good or bad based on the color of their skin runs counter to everything our country was founded on. It is insidious, it is evil, and it is propagated to make our children hate their country.”

CRT is not a component of Florida’s K-12 curriculum but the BOE adopted the rule after DeSantis cited “attempts to teach CRT” in Palm Beach and Sarasota counties and at Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where two school cultural meetings separating students based on race were canceled amid backlash.

“Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” DeSantis tweeted before the BOE adopted its rule in June. “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools.”

Fine also cited an example of CRT being taught in schools, noting “as we have seen in Brevard County, radical politicians and bureaucrats are indoctrinating this hate into our principals, teachers, and ultimately, students.”

Fine said while most are engaged in “the greatest crisis to public education in history – responding to COVID,” Brevard County School Board “politicians thought it was more important to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a CRT trainer who stated, ‘White America has a deep and thick appetite for Black death and violence upon Black people.’ The philosophy these politicians are pushing is repugnant and repulsive, and this legislation will eradicate it root and branch.”

Brevard School District Board officials claim Fine is taking unattributed comments out of context and that they have no plan to teach CRT.

HB 57 would ban a 10-point list of “divisive concepts,” including “race or sex scapegoating,” prohibit teaching one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist and that individuals are inherently racist, sexist and oppressive based on their own race or sex.

Florida Department of Education inspectors general would review compliance annually under HB 57, which clarifies it does not ban “racial, cultural, ethnic or intellectual diversity and inclusiveness efforts” that don’t feature “divisive concepts.”