Editorial | Florida is the ‘freedom’ state restricting rights


AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis complains about the FDA’s decision to revoke its emergency authorization for two COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments during a press conference, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in North Miami, Florida.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Critical race theory has recently been under attack from Republicans across the country, but has come under even more heat in the Sunshine State. A bill passed last year that banned teaching CRT in Florida schools, but politicians want to further restrict what can be taught and discussed in both schools and non-academic spaces.

Florida Republicans shouldn’t paint themselves as fighters for the “freedom” state, as they approve and pass more and more laws that prohibit people from living their authentic lives.

A Florida bill named “Individual Freedom” is attempting to inhibit some discussions of race in public schools and private businesses. The legislation, which is backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would bar people from making others “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” While the bill doesn’t directly mention CRT, the term is used in the attached bill analysis given to state senators.

Critics argue that this legislation attempts to revise history and keep white people from feeling uncomfortable.

“This isn’t even a ban on Critical Race Theory, this is a ban on Black history,” said Florida Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones.

Florida has also made it easier for parents to decide the contents of public school curriculums. In Polk County, officials made rounds through schools to collect 16 books flagged by a conservative group for obscenity — many dealing with gender and sexuality. District officials deny that the books were banned, instead saying they are “quarantined” until a review can be conducted — whenever that may be. Several districts are following suit, requesting the same titles be pulled from shelves in their schools.

Other measures taken by the Florida legislatures aim to further ostracize LGBTQ+ people. A Republican panel advanced a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban discussing gender and sexual identities in schools. The bill says it “[reinforces] the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children,” but it furthers the attack on non-heterosexual and non-cisgender people.

The bill follows a ban on transgender women and girl athletes from particpating in sports that DeSantis signed into law last summer. These decisions cause immense psychological trauma for years — 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics have negatively impacted their mental health.

By limiting the ability to openly discuss many of the same issues facing all parts of the country, Florida Republicans are creating a population of uneducated, unaware people. Proclaiming that Florida is the “freedom” state while actively restricting the rights and open communication of its constituents just seems like bad politics.