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Florida prohibits DEI in public colleges amid ‘Stop WOKE’ legal battles

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(NEW YORK) — The Florida Board of Education has passed regulations limiting the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, activities and policies in the public college system.

The board defines DEI as “any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.”

DEI, as defined by DEI professionals, is aimed at correcting inequities within an organization for marginalized groups — this could include implementing accessibility measures for people with disabilities, correcting discriminatory hiring practices, addressing gender and racial pay inequities and more.

This could also look like anti-racism or anti-bias training and has its roots in the anti-discrimination legislative movement of the 1960s of which the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act were born, according to ABC News’ past interviews with DEI professionals.

The rule adopted by the Board will prohibit Florida College System institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that may be defined under the state’s definition of DEI. This could impact classes, clubs and other programs on public Florida campuses.

DEI has become the target of conservatives in recent years, coinciding with efforts to ban certain lessons on race from K-12 schools and restrict access to certain books in school libraries.

This decision by the Board comes after a judge blocked the Republican-backed “Stop WOKE” Act in Florida from restricting race-related curriculum in colleges and universities. WOKE in the bill stands for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”

Woke is defined by the DeSantis administration as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them,” according to DeSantis’ general counsel, as reported by The Washington Post.

The judge argued that the First Amendment protects speech in the classroom, and that the law’s vague restrictions are unenforceable, according to ABC-affiliated station WFTS-TV.

A bench trial is set for October 2024 to decide the fate of the legislation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have made anti-“woke” efforts a hallmark of his tenure, calling DEI efforts “indoctrination.”

“Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. with the passage of the new BOE rules. “These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

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