Public university curricula are “the government’s call,” Florida says

The state of Florida asserted Thursday that teacher curricula and internal training at public universities are “the government’s call” and “not the teachers’ own.” Therefore, such expression is fair game, regulated by state legislatures.

“The curriculum of a public university is determined by the university according to the restrictions and guidelines of the state’s elected officials,” the state’s lawyers wrote in the court filing. “It’s the government’s call.”

Educators at public universities do not have a First Amendment right to control curricula.

The state responded to a lawsuit filed this year by several professors and students alleging that Florida’s “Stop WOKE” law violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutionally vague and racially discriminatory.

The law, sponsored by the state’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, prohibits public colleges from subjecting anyone to training or instruction that promotes any of eight “disparate concepts” of race and sex, including “an individual based on his or her race. , color, gender, or national origin, should be discriminated against or treated unfavorably in order to achieve diversity, equality, or inclusion. Similar concepts have appeared in state laws across the country.

“The government of Florida has simply decided to regulate your speech — the curriculum used in public universities and in-house training provided by state employees — and the First Amendment simply has no application in this context,” the lawyers wrote in the court filing.

The Stop WOKE Act does not prohibit tenured faculty members from “expressing their views about their race or anything else at any time, nor does it prevent students from seeking and listening to them,” the statement said. The law also does not prohibit professors from discussing “dissenting concepts” in the classroom when the instruction “is given in an objective manner without verification,” it said.

Florida faculty and other critics of the “Stop WOKE” law have argued that it tramples on professors’ academic freedom to teach and research controversial topics. State lawyers disagreed in a filing, arguing that academic freedom only applies to universities as a whole, not individual educators.

State referred to Garcetti v. Ceballos, A 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case involving work-related speech by public employees held that “teachers at public universities do not have a First Amendment right to control the curriculum.”

Although the Supreme Court declined to expressly determine GarcettiThe American Association of University Professors described the decision at the time as “a serious threat to academic freedom.” Since then, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, courts have ruled on the issue in different ways.

Most recently, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said last year that Garcetti ruling does not apply to public university classrooms, ruling in favor of a professor who refused to refer to a transgender student by the student’s preferred pronouns. And this year, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of a public high school football coach who was fired for praying on the field before games, reversing a Ninth Circuit ruling that the coach’s expression was not protected speech.

A hearing in the Stop WOKE law case is scheduled for October.

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