DeSantis wants parents to sue schools that teach "critical race theory": "Nobody wants this crap"

"We reject the notion that parents shouldn't have a say in what their kids learn in school," DeSantis said

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published January 12, 2022 2:45PM (EST)

Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked the state legislature to approve a bill that would incentivize parents to sue school districts that teach critical race theory (CRT), arguing that parents should "have a say in what their kids learn in school."

"Florida law should provide parents with the right to review the curriculum used in their children's schools," the governor said during his 2022 State of the State Address. "We should provide parents with recourse so that state standards are enforced, such as Florida's prohibition on infusing subjects with critical race theory in our classrooms." 

DeSantis first introduced the controversial measure – dubbed the "Stop WOKE Act" – back in December. Contained within the law, which formally bans the instruction of CRT in corporate or classroom settings, is a provision that would establish a legal "cause of action" for parents looking to sue school districts that contravene the ban. It's a provision similar to Texas' controversial, near-total abortion ban passed last year, which effectively put a bounty on anyone who assists someone in obtaining an abortion past six weeks into a pregnancy — a time when most people are unaware they are even pregnant at all.

RELATED: Ron DeSantis' "Stop WOKE" bill, modeled after Texas' anti-abortion law, targets teachers

CRT, of course, is not something often taught in K-12 schools. It's an academic lens, taught primarily in law school, through which one views race as a social construct. CRT posits that race, law, and politics have been problematically interwoven throughout U.S. history, leading to systemic racial discrimination spanning centuries. 

At the time of the Stop WOKE Act's unveiling, a December press release for the bill detailed a number of instances in which CRT had allegedly been used in classrooms across the nation — all of which happened out of state. A local news station even asked every Florida school district whether they teach CRT, and all denied ever doing so. 

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Still, DeSantis has repeatedly alleged that the phenomenon is widespread and needs to be routed out in the Sunshine State. 

"Nobody wants this crap," DeSantis said last month.  "This is an elite-driven phenomenon being driven by bureaucratic elites, elites in universities and elites in corporate America. And they're trying to shove it down the throats of the American people. You're not doing that in the state of Florida."

RELATED: "Moms for Liberty" group demands schools ban books with "sexy" pictures of seahorses

Last year, conservatives turned critical race theory into a hot button culture war issue, with many using it as a cudgel to call out the left's apparent ideological "infiltration" into the nation's public school system. Democrats and progressives have repeatedly argued that conservatives are using CRT as a shorthand to prevent teachers from talking about America's problematic racial history.

Much of the conservative fight against CRT is being spearheaded by Moms for Liberty, a 501(c)(4) group that advocates for "parental rights" over how children are being taught in school. Though the group has largely presented itself as grassroots, Media Matters found that the nonprofit is "well-connected with a variety of Republican politicians and entities," including Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party; and the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Koch-backed think tank.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

MORE FROM Jon Skolnik

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