A Florida bill seeking to tighten regulations on educator certification and school leader preparation programs has advanced in the state Senate, edging closer to a potential vote. The bill, SB 1372, marks the latest effort by right-wing lawmakers to strip teachings on systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege from educational programs.
“Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education passed Senate Bill 1372 (SB 1372), a censorship bill that prohibits adults from discussing with other adults in teacher training programs topics related to systemic and institutional racism, sexism, and oppression,” the ACLU of Florida said in a statement.
Teacher preparation programs are designed to assist educators in obtaining their professional certification and are provided by both public and private colleges and universities, as well as private entities.
SB 1372 states that teacher preparation program courses “may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum or instruction that teaches identity politics… or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.”
“SB 1372 runs contrary to the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom, chilling speech across the Florida public education system as part of the larger trend to instill censorship in Florida’s public schools,” said Katie Blankenship, the director of PEN America’s Florida office.
Critics of SB 1372 highlight that the bill’s ambiguous definition of “identity politics” could potentially be wielded by Florida conservatives to suppress whichever content they choose to censor at any given moment.
“Freedom is not real when the only viewpoints allowed in our public schools and colleges are those approved by state government. This bill’s vague language muzzles disfavored viewpoints in the name of so-called freedom,” said Joe Saunders, Equality Florida’s senior political director.
SB 1372 appears to be another right-wing endeavor to promote censorship in the state after the 2022 “Stop WOKE Act” (HB 7 2022) was blocked from going into effect as a lawsuit challenging the legislation moves through the courts. The legal challenge to the Stop WOKE Act asserts that the legislation violates the first and 14th Amendments of the Constitution by barring educators from discussing or expressing perspectives on racism or gender that are opposed by Florida lawmakers.
“This government censorship bill, like several other unconstitutional censorship bills from prior sessions, prohibits teaching, discussing, and learning about topics related to identity politics, systemic racism, and oppression in teacher training programs,” Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Florida has become a “a primary battleground over proposals to censor truthful teaching in schools.” Conservative lawmakers have passed multiple “Don’t’ Say Gay” laws that limit discussions of sexuality in schools, banned diversity programs at public universities in the state, attacked Black studies, and propagated false narratives that enslaved people “benefited” from slavery.
As a result of these censorship laws, 35 percent of social studies textbooks submitted to the state for review have been rejected for non-compliance with regulations. Additionally, thousands of books have been taken out of circulation in classrooms and libraries.
“Florida politicians keep seeking to impose limits on discourse and conversation in our classrooms. Instead of pursuing meaningful policymaking to improve Floridians’ lives, lawmakers are misusing their legislative powers to pass harmful laws that expand the government’s reach into our daily lives,” Gross said.