Wave Staff

DeSantis’s Detrimental Decisions

March 17, 2023

Since DeSantis prefiled the oath of office with the Florida secretary of state and became the governor of Florida on January 8th, 2019, he has made a number of changes to state policies and education that have significantly altered the state’s political climate and changed the fabric of Florida’s governing. Additionally, it is expected that DeSantis will announce his candidacy for president in the following months, putting many into a state of fear for their rights.

The policies and legislations that DeSantis has implemented or overturned have striking similarities to executive orders passed by previous presidents and legislators that limited human rights. Legislation passed such as DeSantis’s Stop W.O.K.E Act and the Don’t Say Gay Bill both aim to censor the identities of students and specific diversity groups, turning a blind eye to the discrimination and cultural adversities of the groups and individuals prohibited from classroom discussions and curriculums.

Don’t Say DeSantis

Protecting LGBTQ+ Students and Families from Florida’s Discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” Law Photo Credits: National Center for Lesbian Rights

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower solidified the decades of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals with Executive Order 10450 which identified homosexuality, described as “sexual perversion”, for being a rational reason to fire or reject the application of federal government workers. This discriminatory ban targeting LGBTQ+ workers wasn’t fully lifted until Executive Order 13764 under the Presidency of Barack Obama in 2017. 

Now, only years later, House Bill 1557 signed by Governor DeSantis, otherwise referred to as the Don’t Say Gay Bill, prohibits discussions of sexuality, gender, and otherwise LBGTQ+ centered issues in classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. Some LGBTQ+ teachers have quit the profession altogether. DeSantis and legislators have since planned to increase the limitations of the bill and introduced six more bills that seek to further restrict education last month. 

The proposed bills would only harm students, affecting more than 16,000 minors in Florida who identify as transgender, and thousands of nonbinary people who may use different pronouns, but might not identify as trans. Senate Bill 1320 would expand the ban on discussions about gender and sexuality until ninth grade instead of grade three and prohibit the use of preferred pronouns for both students and educators. 

It really is further and further isolating LGBTQ students, it’s making it hard for them to receive the full support that schools should be giving every child.

— Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director for LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign

Through these legislations DeSantis disables educators’ abilities to teach students how to be cognizant of human rights and aware of the social injustices surrounding race & sexuality. If passed, the legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2023, and LGBTQ+ students in Florida would lose all sense of acceptance & security in the classroom. So how is DeSantis silencing LGBTQ+ individuals in the classroom any different from Eisenhower muzzling the federal government workers in the 1900s?

Ron DeSantis is Erasing Black History from Florida Schools Photo Credits: Teen Vogue

Similarly, the Stop W.O.K.E Act which is an educational gag order passed in 2022 by Florida state legislature, with support of DeSantis, prevents faculty from presenting certain viewpoints related to race and sexuality. Due to the legislation conflicting with the first amendment, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker for the Northern District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction prior to the legislation’s passing, in November 2022.

Judge Walker emphasized that Florida was sanctioning viewpoint discrimination by prohibiting professors’ ability to express views that the state endorsed while permitting them from expressing views that the state legislature disfavored. This observation remains relevant in DeSantis’s passed legislations that repetitively contradict Executive Orders made by the president and higher governing bodies.

Roe v. Wade & the Regression of Women’s Rights

DeSantis Responds to Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade Overturned

Marking the start of Women’s History Month, and not only a day before International Women’s Day, a bill banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy was proposed by Florida legislators on March 7th. If passed, Senate Bill 300 would have lasting destructive effects on women and anyone seeking an abortion after the six week mark.

Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, DeSantis signed Senate Bill 146 banning abortions after 15 weeks, which went into effect on July 1, 2022. This bill replaced the previous, which banned abortions until 24 weeks of pregnancy. The cruel and unjust 15-week ban doesn’t even make exceptions for cases of incest, rape or human trafficking.

With Roe overturned, many other states believe that the 15-week ban is insufficient and Republican Governors in other states, particularly Southern States, have put even more extreme restrictions in place and pushed for more aggressive measures to limit access to reproductive and similar healthcare services.

The contradiction between Presidential Executive Orders and state legislature became particularly evident in President Biden’s Executive Order 14079, which supports securing access to reproductive and other healthcare services, opposing the state legislature banning access to reproductive healthcare and other healthcare services.

In the Executive Order: Securing Access to Reproductive and Other Healthcare Services, Biden states that eliminating these rights “will continue to have devastating implications for women’s health and public health more broadly.” Though the executive order does not explicitly change any state’s laws regarding reproductive healthcare, the order directs Biden’s Administration to take further action to “protect access to reproductive healthcare services and address the crisis facing women’s health and public health.”

Harris calls for renewed push to secure abortion rights on Roe’s 50th anniversary Photo Credits: ABC News

Additionally, in a teleconference call held on Monday, March 13, 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the extreme measures being taken by  “extremist so-called leaders” to further limit reproductive rights. She discusses the Florida Republican state legislators who introduced a bill to ban abortions after six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. “There are 4 million women of reproductive age in Florida, and the consequences would reach far beyond Florida.”

In concluding the press conference, Harris declares that congress must pass a bill that President Biden will sign, defending the rights of women and those seeking reproductive healthcare by putting the protections of Roe v. Wade back into federal law. “This fight will be won only when we secure reproductive rights for every person in every state.” 


Battling Over Books

With more frequent legislation robbing women of their right to control their bodies and their lives, and forbidding the discussion of topics such as race, gender, and sexuality, it is no surprise that the governing of the nation and specifically the state of Florida can be compared to that of a dystopian society.

Karla Hernández-Mats, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Florida, has said living in the state is starting to feel like the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. “We’re seeing a governor that acts like a dictator, that is authoritarian, and that is taking away and depriving our freedom.”  

Despite being published more than 35 years ago, The Handmaid’s Tale re-entered the bestseller list during the presidency of Donald Trump and has since become a shorthand critique of the recent legislative decisions and dictator-esque actions of Florida’s and other states’ governors.

During the Senate confirmations of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, protesters dressed as Handmaids in reference to the novel, gathered outside the US Capitol over fears of the overturn of Roe v. Wade. There were similar protests when Republicans attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Ironically enough, The Handmaid’s Tale, was one of the many books targeted for its sexual or otherwise deemed “school-inappropriate” content. Among the many other books banned from Florida curriculums a “disproportionate” number of bans focused on stories relating to LGBTQ+ people and people of color.” 

Just within Florida schools in the 2021-22 school year, PEN America , an organization that advocates for free expression, documented 565 books banned. In 2023, to comply with new laws, some Florida schools were directed to empty libraries and cover classroom bookshelves. Teachers in Manatee County and Duval County were told they had to have each book in their classrooms reviewed to determine if the books were fit for the classrooms. A total of 175 books were banned in the state of Florida alone.

The bans on books extend beyond supplemental resources and include mandatory textbooks. The Florida Department of Education recently rejected 54 of 132 submitted math textbooks from being used next school year, providing reasoning that the textbooks have “references to critical race theory” or “the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning in mathematics.”

We’ve never seen anything like this, in terms of concerted attacks on public education in a single state, and it’s really devastating to see these bills become law.

— Jeremy Young, Senior Manager of free expression and education at PEN America

Nation’s Cry for Gun Control

March for Our Lives Protesters Rally for Stronger Gun Control Legislation Photo Credits: March for Our Lives

Despite the disgustingly increasing number of school shootings and gun-violence related incidents in the U.S, let alone two of the worst mass shootings in history having occurred in Florida, Governor DeSantis put forth a cluster of bills supporting the ability for people to carry concealed loaded firearms without a permit or even a background check. 

Reducing the required age to purchase or transfer guns is the goal of House Bill 1543. Proposed changes in House Bill 543 and Senate Bill 150 would do away with any license, background check or training in order to carry a concealed gun.

Permitless carry laws endanger the public by removing vital safety measures designed to ensure that those carrying concealed weapons have been properly trained and vetted. With the increasing numbers of mass shootings and rising gun crime, it is a shock that legislators are asked to loosen gun restrictions rather than make them stronger.

A poll conducted by University of North Florida revealed that 77%, the majority of Florida voters feel that the bill is too extreme and stand in opposition. “Even among Republicans, most people are against carrying weapons without a permit,” said Michael Binder, executive director of the UNF, Public Opinion Research Lab.

In an effort to curb gun violence, President Biden signed Executive Order 14092, which was signed in hopes of bringing the country closer to universal background checks without legislation and pushing to hold the gun industry accountable. According to Biden it does this by calling out for an independent government study that “analyzes and exposes how gun manufacturers aggressively market firearms to civilians, especially to minors,”

 March for Our Lives an organization born out of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and is a youth-led movement dedicated to promoting civic engagement, education, and direct action by youth to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence. 

March for Our Lives Student Protesters at the Capitol Photo Credits: March for Our Lives

March For Our Lives has held 450 marches worldwide, leading to over 20 new state laws to curb gun violence, and the passing of bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first federal legislation on guns in 30 years.

A tweet by March for Our Lives emphasizes the extreme importance of putting a stop to the root enabler of school shootings, firearms. “In the last five years, more kids have died by the hands of firearms in their schools than American soldiers have in war overseas.” 


DeSantis Hurts Human Rights

The decisions that DeSantis has made to change state legislature have had consequences that extend beyond Florida and influence many different states who have recently taken similar strides to pass similar extreme and restrictive legislation. 

The wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth & individuals, women, people of color, educators & students, and the majority of Florida has been significantly impacted under the regressive extreme legislation being put into effect under DeSantis’s governing. 

If DeSantis chooses to enter the upcoming presidential election, which is likely, there runs the risk that his governing jurisdiction will increase from just the state of Florida to the rest of the United States, thus spreading the detrimental discriminatory legislature beyond Florida’s state lines, leaving no place to go for those seeking reproductive & other healthcare, or safety in their identities. 

The extent of DeSantis’s recent bills and impact as just governor of Florida should foreshadow the bleak fate of the United States in the event that he chooses to run and is elected. If changes aren’t made to reverse the direction of Florida’s and other states restrictive legislation there will be irreversible consequences.

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About the Writer
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Sophia Lowrie, Executive Editor

Sophia Lowrie is a senior at Marco Island Academy and the Executive Editor for The Wave. She loves baking and cooking for friends and family and reading...

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