EDUCATION

Florida bill to shield people from feeling ‘discomfort’ over historic actions by their race, nationality or gender approved by Senate committee

Jan 20, 2022, 9:28 AM
florida discomfort...
Students are dismissed at Turie T. Small Elementary School in Daytona Beach on Jan. 4, 2022. Photo: Nigel Cook / News-Journal/USA Today Network/Imagn

(CNN) — A bill backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit Florida’s public schools and private businesses from making people feel “discomfort” or “guilt” based on their race, sex or national origin received first approval Tuesday by the state’s Senate Education Committee.

The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill with six Republican senators in favor of the bill and three Democratic senators opposed to it.

Although the bill, named “Individual Freedom,” does not mention Critical Race Theory, the term is used in the attached bill analysis that was given to senators.

DeSantis also referred to CRT when he announced the proposed legislation at a media event in December, saying the proposed law would help keep CRT out of the schools and out of the workplace, calling it “state-sanctioned racism” that creates a “hostile work environment.”

Under Florida Department of Education rules that took effect last June, CRT cannot be taught in schools.

Critical Race Theory is a concept that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life.

The legislation would prohibit individuals from making people “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.”

It would also prohibit employers from providing training or instruction that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” individuals to believe “that an individual bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex or national origin.”

Instructors would be able to address topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, racial discrimination in an age-appropriate manner. However, the bill states that “classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles of this subsection or state academic standards.”

Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones, the committee’s vice chair and its only Black member, told CNN by phone that the bill is an attempt 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,” he said. “They are talking about not wanting White people to feel uncomfortable? Let’s talk about being uncomfortable. My ancestors were uncomfortable when they were stripped away from their children.”

In a statement emailed to CNN, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said the governor’s position was that “discrimination based on race, color, sex, and national origin” had no place in Florida.

The bill “makes clear that no Floridian — student, worker, or anyone else — should be subjected to discriminatory content and rhetoric,” she wrote.

“Every Floridian deserves an equal shot at success, regardless of skin color. This means considering each person as an individual with unique attributes, experiences, and aspirations, rather than stereotyping them as a member of this or that identity group,” she said.

Pushaw added: “It is frankly disturbing that anyone would find these ideas controversial in the year 2022.”

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Florida bill to shield people from feeling ‘discomfort’ over historic actions by their race, nationality or gender approved by Senate committee