Florida college students planning statewide walkout in protest of Ron DeSantis’s ‘attacks’ on education

Students on college campuses across the state of Florida are planning a walkout on Thursday to protest Gov Ron DeSantis’ policies targeting LGBTQ+ and students of color.

The walkout, which is being organised by the Florida College Democrats and Dream Defenders, is scheduled from noon to 1pm on Thursday, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. The students will call on the state to restore funding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming following Mr DeSantis’ announcement earlier this month that he plans to cut funding for them at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Mr DeSantis also vowed to block critical race theory at the state’s public colleges, an advanced legal theory that conservatives have turned into a catch-all term for teaching about the racial history of the United States.

The early February announcement about the future of DEI programming is only the latest of Mr DeSantis’ attacks on academic freedom in the state.

The second-term governor, who is widely expected to announce his candidacy for president later this year, also recently blocked a new advanced placement course on African American Studies from being taught in the state’s high schools. Last year, he signed one bill restricting public school teachers’ ability to teach about gender and sexuality and another restricting what university professors can teach about.

Earlier this year, the state’s flagship public university, the University of Florida, appointed former Republican Sen Ben Sasse of Nebraska as its new president over the protestations of its students.

The Florida College Democrats have chapters at universities across the state, while Dream Defenders is a progressive organisation with a diverse, young membership founded in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The Florida chapter of the voting rights organisation Voters of Tomorrow is also supporting the protest.

Students at Florida State University are planning to march to the nearby governor’s mansion during their walkout on Thursday, while Students the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida have also signaled their intent to participate in the protest as well, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. All participants in the walkout asked asked to wear all black clothing and to carry political posters and pride flags.

Another student protest is scheduled for February 28 at New College of Florida, a notably progressive, public liberal arts school located in Sarasota.

Mr DeSantis’ crackdown on free speech in Florida schools is part of a broader political strategy that has also seen the governor sign legislation targeting Disney for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law that allows parents to sue their school districts if teachers mention gender or sexual orientation in the classroom.