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New College group sues Florida over law restricting instruction

New College group sues Florida over law restricting instruction

Higher Ed Dive

Laura Spitalniak
August 16, 2023
Dive Brief:
  • A coalition of New College of Florida professors and students sued the institution’s trustees and the Florida university system’s board of governors Monday over a recently enacted state law that limits what public colleges can teach.
  • In May, Florida enacted a law banning public colleges from teaching certain subjects, like “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.”
  • The lawsuit, which also names the Florida education commissioner and New College’s interim president, alleges the law censors free speech and violates the First Amendment.
Dive Insight:
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law just days before he announced his 2024 presidential campaign. The legislation, a focal point of his political agenda, also prohibits public colleges from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for students and employees. DeSantis has long been a vocal opponent of DEI initiatives and academic programming that views U.S. history through a lens of systemic racism.
“What this concept of DEI has been is an attempt to impose orthodoxy on the university,” DeSantis said in signing the legislation. “DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination.”
NCF Freedom, the plaintiff group behind Monday’s lawsuit, is asking a federal district court to declare the law unconstitutional.
In addition to censoring speech, the plaintiffs allege the law is vague, overly broad and likely to deter speech beyond its purview.
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