DeSantis’ flagship bill against faculty not dead despite new block

Sam Joeckel had been teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University for 21 years before being terminated last Wednesday after a parent complained about a racial justice segment in his English class. The administration placed him on review "due to concerns he was indoctrinating students."

Following Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s preliminary injunction on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed “Stop WOKE Act” bill in November, a federal appeals court on Thursday denied his administration’s request for a stay that would allow the bill’s enforcement while under review.

“The Stop Woke Act requires discriminatory censorship of ideas in Florida’s classrooms and workplaces,” ACLU senior staff attorney Leah Watson said, according to NBC affiliate WPTV-TV. “Today’s order by the 11th Circuit protects students and educators pursuing their right to learn in classrooms.”

Two lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) against House Bill 7 led to Walker’s hearing. The bill aimed to curb how faculty and staff could speak about color, race, gender and identity to prevent inflicting “guilt, shame, anguish or any or any other form of psychological distress.” Race seemed the driving motivator of the bill, its backers were especially concerned about how educators spoke about “white privilege.”. Referencing George Orwell’s “1984” and condemning the bill as “positively dystopian” Walker issued the injunction.

DeSantis’ administration filed an appeal to Walker’s decision and requested the bill be enforced until the court came to a decision. Judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the stay, blocking key parts of HB7 that directly affected higher education.

“It is a victory for the months it takes until the 11th Circuit decides the appeal, students and educators in higher ed will be safe from the discriminatory provisions,” Watson said.

Regardless of the court’s final decision on the appeal, the state’s antagonization of higher education through bills like the “Stop WOKE Act” and others has sent chills across Florida’s higher education system. Last Wednesday, administration at one Florida university terminated a professor’s contract shortly after placing him on review “due to concerns he was indoctrinating students” when a parent complained about a racial justice unit in his English class.

“I have been terminated, basically fired. I received my last paycheck yesterday, I am no longer allowed on campus,” Joeckel said, according to WPBF. “Over something that never had been a concern for 12 years. So, I feel very much disrespected.”

Sam Joeckel had been teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University for 21 years.

DeSantis’ legislation has also sparked a fire across the country’s higher education landscape. Conservative congressmen in other states have recently proposed similar legislation borrowing heavily from the blueprint DeSantis and his team initiated.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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