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FL Gov. DeSantis Signs Legislation Protecting Students Free Speech, Promoting Civics Education

06-26-2021
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a new bill Tuesday aimed at protecting freedom of expression, including religious beliefs, at state universities. 

Under House Bill 233, school leadership can't "shield" students, faculty, or staff from free speech protected under the First Amendment. 

DeSantis also challenged the way colleges conduct debate and teach problem-solving, adding that many students return home "indoctrinated."    

"It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you'd be exposed to a lot of different ideas," DeSantis said. "Unfortunately, now the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments."

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And the Florida Board of Education will now require colleges to survey students every year and assess "the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity" at each institution. 

HB 233, which takes effect on July 1, permits students to record video or audio of class lectures for their own personal educational use. Consent is required by a professor before a student records a lecture.

Ophelie Jacobson, a campus reform representative and student at the University of Florida said the new bill "will provide transparency to taxpayers in Florida." 

"Floridians want to know they are funding institutions that live up to the standard of raising the next generation of open-minded leaders and thinkers, and right now, our state colleges and universities are not living up to that standard," Jacobson said to Fox News

"My peers have lost the ability to critically think and analyze different viewpoints because other viewpoints aren't there for them to analyze! But thanks to Governor DeSantis, intellectual diversity is making a comeback on campus. This annual assessment will be a true eye-opener for taxpayers, parents, and students."

Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis has called for Florida to be the frontrunner in civics literacy across the country.

Additional education bills he signed include House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 1108, targeting how civics education will be discussed from kindergarten through higher education.

"We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology," he added. "That's not worth tax dollars, and that's not something that we're going to be supporting going forward."

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