Florida Lawmakers Aim to Limit Exposure to Materials Related to Race and Sex in Classrooms and Businesses

‘In Florida, people will be judged as individuals,’ the bill’s sponsor said

GOP lawmakers in Florida are focused on expanding the state’s Civil Rights Act to protect citizens from being subjected to certain instructional materials regarding race or sex in classrooms and workplaces.

The effort stems from a focus in Governor DeSantis’s administration to control how race and other topics are taught in schools. It is accompanied by an attempt to protect the freedom of private businesses to make decisions in the same areas for their own companies.

Republican Representative Bryan Avila, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, has sponsored the bill known as HB 7. Avila says that the legislation affirms that people will not be subjected to judgment under characteristics such as race or sex.

“This bill makes it clear that in Florida, people will be judged as individuals,” Avila said at a Wednesday House Judiciary Committee meeting. 

The bill passed 14 to 7, with Democrats in opposition, and has now been added to the state’s judicial committee agenda.

Democratic Representative Dianne Hart, from Hillsboro County, said, “This bill cripples the ability for teachers to teach effectively.” 

“Every teacher I’ve ever encountered does their job from not only an academic standpoint, but from a personal one — they use to make the curriculum come alive for their students. Even more so for the Black and Brown students on the topic of race and discrimination,” she concluded.

HB 7 expands the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which “secures for all individuals within the state freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.”

The bill is aimed at protecting the educational and employment sectors in Florida. 

HB-7 says individuals should not be subjected to training or curriculum that espouse such principles as:

  • “Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.”
  • “A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
  • “A person’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.”
  • “A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.”
  • “A person should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.”

Should the bill become law, these principles would also apply to students and school employees under the Florida Educational Equity Act

Much of the debate about HB-7 centers around the bill’s impact on schools. There is a concern about ending honest discussions about United States history and racial inequality.

Aliva insists that his bill does not “ban the teaching of historical facts about slavery, about sexism, about racial oppression, racial segregation, or racial discrimination.”

However, Democratic lawmakers disagree and have not offered support of HB-7.

Senate version is also set to move through the 2022 legislative session.

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