TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — From the classroom to the boardroom, Florida’s plan to limit the discussion of topics if they make people feel uncomfortable took another step forward on Tuesday.
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The bill (HB7) would prohibit companies and public schools from teaching “cultural guilt” in a move by Florida Republicans, including Governor Ron DeSantis, to push back on what they say is a “woke” ideology in classrooms and businesses.
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“Making someone because of his or her race or sex feel discomfort, that would constitute discrimination,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Miami) in house committee hearing on Tuesday.
In Florida and across America, we can all agree that all people are created equal. And every person, regardless of their race, sex, religion or any other quality, is entitled to their dignity as an individual. #FightingforFLFamilies pic.twitter.com/68Ddq4cyGk— Rep. Bryan Ávila (@BryanAvilaFL) January 27, 2022
Under the bill, which passed its committee stop on a party-line vote, schools or businesses could face litigation if a topic or teaching causes the student or employee to, “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.”
“We are trying to prevent someone, whether an educator or someone in the workplace from inserting an ideology or take they have to essentially twist the material,” said Avila.
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Who would decide if ideology has been inserted and how would the level of comfort be measured? The bill leaves that up to parents and employees. Something Democrats pointed out is entirely subjective.
“My fear is as a teacher those Nazis that were on that bridge in Orlando their children are in my classroom and now, they go home and say my teacher told me look what Nazi Germany did look what Germany did, I’m a German and you made my child feel uncomfortable,” said Rep. Robin Bartleman (D - Weston) in debate.
“When talking about Black history, U.S. history and atrocities that happened before our time, why is DISCOMFORT or GUILT suddenly a bad thing? Guilt can be a healthy feeling. I’m not talking about personal guilt. I’m talking about COLLECTIVE guilt.” #HB7 pic.twitter.com/NW8qbuFkbF— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 1, 2022
“I’ve spent many years in Tallahassee fighting to defend and improve the Florida Civil Rights Act to ensure that all Floridians who experience real discrimination are protected under Florida law,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D - Orlando) in his closing remarks. “This bill makes a mockery of the Florida Civil Rights Act.”
Supporters say it’s not about banning ideas or banning books, it’s about promoting objective lessons in schools and in businesses.
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“We should teach about the things that have made America great and we should teach about the struggles that we’ve had as a nation,” Jason Fischer (R - Jacksonville). “Teaching the truth is what this bill intends to do.”
The bill still has one more committee stop in the House, meanwhile its Senate counterpart is advancing as well.
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