TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s ban on critical race theory for schools and workplace training is under legal scrutiny Tuesday. A federal judge is now mulling whether to put the new law on hold ahead of its effective date next month.
Tuesday’s legal battle centered on HB 7, what the governor calls his "Stop WOKE Act," a 2022 legislative priority.
The GOP majority pushed it through the legislature this year and it was almost immediately challenged once signed into law.
After a nearly four-hour hearing Tuesday, Federal Judge Mark Walker started reviewing whether to put HB 7 on hold.
Signed in April, it uses a list of broad rules to restrict critical race theory, a concept that racism is baked into American law and legal institutions, in corporate training and public schools.
The governor advocated for it as an end to indoctrination.
"What we will not do is let people distort history to try to serve their current ideological goals," Gov. Ron DeSantis said on April 22.
Those who don’t follow its provisions could wind up in court for offering instruction that a person, for example, should feel "guilt" on account of their race or sex.
"Censorship of speech in schools is fundamentally and constitutionally wrong," said Elizabeth White, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege HB 7 is written too broadly and is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
And while they argued teachers, students and employers will suffer, Judge Walker said he had "grave concerns" about whether there was legal standing to grant the preliminary injunction.
Attorneys for the state, meanwhile, are asking Walker to dismiss the case. They declined to comment, but in their legal filing say plaintiffs have failed to show injury.
The next move is Walker’s.
The President Barack Obama appointee said he plans to rule on the preliminary injunction in the next couple of days, the motion to dismiss may take more time.
But Walker said he felt obligated to put the case on a quick timeline.
Meanwhile, HB 7 is one of many bills set to take effect on July 1 of this year.