A federal judge has denied a request to temporarily block a Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis that restricts what public colleges can teach.
The law, enacted in May, prohibits professors from discussing specific topics or presenting information in specified ways in general education core courses. A coalition of professors and students from New College of Florida filed a lawsuit in August challenging the law, arguing that it violates the First Amendment and censors free speech. The plaintiffs, under the banner of NCF Freedom, expressed concerns about potential cuts to faculty salaries based on their speech in the classroom. However, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that the group lacked standing to seek a preliminary injunction, stating that the free speech concerns were “entirely too speculative.”
The law signed by Governor DeSantis limits public college instruction on certain subjects, including theories related to systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege. It also prohibits public colleges from spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, as well as those engaging in political or social activism. While Judge Walker declined to comment on the law’s constitutionality, he emphasized that the plaintiffs needed to provide more evidence to establish standing. This decision comes amid a broader debate over academic freedom and legislative attempts to regulate the content taught in higher education institutions. Walker had previously blocked the enforcement of Florida’s Stop WOKE Act last November, citing concerns about its impact on free speech rights for instructors.