Florida moves to restrict what schools can teach about systemic racism

A new law in Florida has instituted restrictions on how schools and businesses can teach race-related concepts. The law, called the Stop Woke Act, limits instruction on critical race theory. It's the latest part of Republican Gov. Ron Desantis’ extensive efforts to reshape public education and curriculum in the state. The Miami Herald's Ana Ceballos joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A new law in Florida is restricting how schools and businesses can address the subject of race.

    Lisa Desjardins has more on the cultural battles that are playing out in the Sunshine State.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Florida is again in the middle of cultural and political debate, as a law went into effect in the last week governing some diversity training on the job and teaching about race at schools.

    Joining me to talk about this and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' overall approach is Ana Ceballos, who covers state politics for The Miami Herald.

    First, to help out our viewers, let me cover what this law does. This law is called the Stop WOKE Act. And it essentially codified a ban on teaching Critical Race Theory, including the concept of white privilege, in K-12 schools. It would block businesses from requiring some kinds of diversity and inclusion training.

    And it would enforce all of that using lawsuits or penalties up to $10,000.

    Ana, what is the practical effect here? What does each side say this law will actually do?

  • Ana Ceballos, The Miami Herald:

    So the practical effect has yet to be seen, because we have just seen this law go into effect July 1.

    But we are seeing a lot of concern really about how it's going to be enforced, because this law is giving a lot of power back to parents in regards to the permissions that apply to schools. So if a parent feels that their child has been instructed to feel anguish or discomfort about a conversation related to their race or national origin in the context of what someone else did in the past, that could potentially trigger lawsuits and impact change throughout the school district.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So it sounds like educators don't know what the parameters are. Is that right?

  • Ana Ceballos:

    That's right.

    I mean, the law is — the law is a law. And you can read the specific language that was approved by lawmakers and signed by DeSantis. But within that, it's — there are pretty broad parameters and guidelines as to what is not allowed. And a lot of it has concerned teachers, because a lot of it has to do with feelings, right? How do you regulate and determine that a teacher instructed a kid or a student to feel guilt or discomfort?

    And so how that is enforced has yet to be determined and has yet to play out in court, whether there's going to be any lawsuits. And so that is currently what teachers are eying in terms of what could potentially be in store for them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Of course, Governor DeSantis has been saying that he's responding to other concerns, concerns from parents. And this is part of a series of proposals that he's laid out about what kids should know or access, including transgender care and the gay community, restrictions that he has thought should be put in place.

    What are the politics of all this? And what exactly do voters in Florida think of what he's doing?

  • Ana Ceballos:


    So one thing to know about DeSantis is that, since the pandemic, he has really paid a lot of attention to education, and he has really focused on the so-called culture wars and how those have concerned parents specifically. And that has really caused him to be a national star within — with the political right.

    And so he's really tapped into the emotions, right, of these parents that are more receptive to conservative culture wars in a way. And so what we're hearing is that he is remaining steadfast in maintaining an approach of being the main fighter against — quote unquote — "woke culture," and whether it's higher ed or K-12. And we're seeing a lot of that through some of the measures that he's backing and some of the noise that he's making in press conferences, and how he's advocating and really causing a wave at the national level, because he's becoming such a prominent figure in Republican politics, that a lot of people are following his lead.

    And you have to remember that, for DeSantis, he's a very strategic government — governor, and he's ambitious. And so I know that he's listening to the base in terms of what he's trying to embrace. And a lot of what we're seeing right now is, I think, that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In our last 30 seconds or so, do you have a sense of what voters think of this law and what he's doing?

  • Ana Ceballos:

    Well, I think, with anything, it depends, I guess, on what voters we're talking to, right?

    Florida is a pretty diverse state. It is trending right since the 2020 election. But it is a very — when it comes to divisive concepts, specifically in education, a lot of it has to do with parents who might be single-issue voters, because they care so much about what their children are experiencing firsthand.

    And so it just depends on specific issues.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Fascinating reporting.

    Ana Ceballos from The Miami Herald, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Ana Ceballos:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment