ACLU challenges Florida CRT law as ex-prosecutor sues DeSantis for ouster

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Thursday aiming to challenge Florida’s HB 7 bill, also known as the Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees, or the Stop WOKE Act.

The law, introduced in December 2021, works to prohibit schools from teaching critical race theory in classrooms. The lawsuit is being headed by a group of teachers and students who are represented by the ACLU, who argue that the Stop WOKE Act is a violation of the First and 14th amendments.

The suit, which was filed in federal court, names the Board of Governors of the Florida State University System and the commissioner of the Florida Board of Education as well as other boards of trustees at several public universities as defendants.

“All educators and students have a right to teach and learn free from censorship or discrimination,” said Leah Watson, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program in a press release. “The First Amendment broadly protects our right to share information and ideas, and this includes educators’ and students’ right to learn, discuss, and debate issues around systemic racism and sexism.”

The news of the ACLU lawsuit comes on the heels of the announcement of a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from former Tampa-area prosecutor Andrew Warren, who was suspended for his position on abortion and transgender rights.

On Wednesday, Warren filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, saying the Republican leader violated his First Amendment rights when he removed him from his job after Warren said he disagreed with abortion legislation supported by DeSantis.

DeSantis signed a bill in April that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, and in June, the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which had provided national protection for abortion access. That decision allowed abortion-prohibiting laws such as Florida’s to go into effect. DeSantis has also fought to enact particular legislation that would block gender-affirming care for transgender kids, although Florida has no current laws restricting healthcare for transgender children.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. DeSantis is facing a lawsuit from ousted Tampa-area prosecutor Andrew Warren.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Warren, who was elected as the Hillsborough County State Attorney in 2016, signed several what he called “value statements” where he expressed his opposition to legislation that “was being considered and passed that was violating people’s constitutional rights,” he told MSNBC‘s Katie Phang on The Katie Phang Show last week. In response, DeSantis removed him from his position.

“If the governor’s allowed to do this, what’s left of democracy? If the governor’s allowed to retaliate against me for speaking out, what’s left of the First Amendment,” Warren asked at a news conference in Tallahassee.

According to a HuffPost report, the lawsuit alleged that DeSantis did not justify the suspension with any actual criminal activity, and argued that the governor retaliated because Warren voiced his opinions, which DeSantis opposed.

“Of course, DeSantis is free to express his views and his disagreements with Warren as often as he likes. Indeed, the Federal Constitution ensures that he is,” the suit reportedly said. “DeSantis went too far.”

Warren said on The Katie Phang Show prior to the official filing of the suit, “I’m being punished not only for cases that haven’t come before me, but for cases on laws that don’t even exist or aren’t even valid in the state of Florida. This is Orwellian thought police where I’m being punished for not enforcing laws that aren’t even on the books yet.”

Newsweek has reached out to a representative for DeSantis and the ACLU for additional comment.

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