TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While a federal judge, temporarily, blocked Florida’s Stop WOKE Act on college campuses in an order related to a case brought by a professor at the University of South Florida, a concurrent case also contesting the law has gone in a different direction.
The suit, brought by Leroy Pernell, a former Florida A&M University dean and current professor at the university’s college of law, now asks U.S. Chief Judge Mark Walker to force Florida to comply with the preliminary injunction he signed in November.
On Jan. 4, Bryan Griffin, the governor’s press secretary, posted a copy of a memo asking for institutions to “report expenditures and resources utilized for campus activities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and critical race theory,” and telling people to “stay tuned” on Twitter.
Pernell and his co-plaintiffs allege that Florida’s move to have its colleges and universities submit reports on diversity, equity, inclusion and critical race theory program and initiatives to help “have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions” violates the injunction.
Per the plaintiffs’ filing, and attached exhibits, “The purpose behind the Executive Memorandum’s direction to collect information about instructors’ activities is clearly to enforce the unconstitutional provisions of the Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”
Pernell and his co-plaintiffs say in the filing that due to reference of Florida Statute 1000.05 and multiple mentions of “viewpoints targeted by the Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” Florida’s government and the Department of Education are violating the court order to not enforce the law on campuses, as well as promising to withdraw or withhold funds from institutions based on the reports.
As a result, the plaintiffs filed a motion to have the court compel compliance with the preliminary injunction, halting the report on programs and initiatives at Florida colleges and universities until the challenges to the law have played out.
In the included exhibits, Pernell and his co-plaintiffs’ attorneys provided copies of a Dec. 28, 2022 memorandum from the Dept. of Education regarding the survey activity, as well as emails sent to state officials regarding the preliminary injunction and defendants’ alleged steps that violate the order.
In communication with plaintiffs’ attorneys, counsel for the Florida Board of Governors and other state officials named as defendants said that they saw “no basis for any claim that compliance with the Governor’s request” for information from colleges and universities does not comply with Judge Walker’s order. Instead, they asked for clarification on why they believe the activity surveys to be in violation, promising to follow the order as long as it remains in effect.
The correspondence between both parties’ attorneys continued through Jan. 9, in the filed exhibits included, with the motion for compelled compliance coming Wednesday, Jan. 11.
Separate to the new DEI and CRT survey, contested by Pernell, Florida’s colleges and universities are already sending out and receiving surveys billed as promoting intellectual freedom on campus. The freedom surveys were passed as part of a 2021 law and signed by DeSantis in June 2021.