Demand Gov. Ron DeSantis Stop Censoring Teachers, Students, and Journalists Now

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing everything in his power to stifle debate, silence and punish his critics, and cancel the free speech rights the First Amendment grants the press and public.

It’s time for this to stop.

DeSantis has already made headlines over his repeated attempts to censor Florida teachers and schools, shutting down African American history classes and restricting discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools. Now, DeSantis and his allies want to silence journalism by making it dramatically easier for politicians to sue reporters and win.

If DeSantis gets his way, the Florida Legislature could rewrite the state’s defamation laws and gut protections for anonymous sources, making it impossible for reporters to do their jobs without exposing themselves to massive legal risk. Parts of these bills are so radical that even Koch-funded groups and right-wing radio stations oppose them.

But DeSantis’s punitive approach to speech isn’t limited to the press. He’s repeatedly tried to make an example of teachers and students to score points in the right-wing culture war.

New Florida guidelines on “prurient” and “offensive” media have forced school libraries to pull books off of shelves to be checked against a state list. When a teacher in Duval County posted a video of empty library bookshelves -- and the video went viral -- DeSantis held an angry press conference calling it a “fake narrative.” One day later, the teacher was fired.[1]

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law bans teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues with young children.[2] Another DeSantis-backed education bill claims to prohibit critical race theory, “corporate wokeness,” and “subjective indoctrination that pushes collective guilt” -- using the Holocaust as an example in a press release.[3]

And when the College Board piloted an AP African American studies course in the state, DeSantis blocked it for lacking “educational value,” then threatened to cancel all AP classes in the state when the College Board questioned his decision.

Enough is enough. Ron DeSantis is making a mockery of basic First Amendment rights to score cheap political points, silence his critics, and juice his likely run for president.

Add your name to send your message to Ron DeSantis now.

Demand that Gov. Ron DeSantis stop censoring teachers, students, and journalists.

[1] We Spoke to The Florida Teacher Who Was Fired For a Viral Video Of Empty School Library Shelves
[2] ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law brings worry, confusion to Florida schools
[3] Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation to Protect Floridians from Discrimination and Woke Indoctrination

Full Petition Text:

TO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Gov. DeSantis,

Florida’s attacks on the free speech rights of teachers, students, and journalists are unacceptable and must come to an end.

Under your leadership, Florida has limited the ability of teachers to discuss LGBTQ+ issues, forced schools across the state to remove books from libraries, and made dog-whistle attempts to ban critical race theory and “indoctrination that pushes collective guilt” from schools.

At least one teacher who has spoken up about disappearing books has been fired. When the College Board pushed back on Florida’s decision to block an AP African American studies class, your administration threatened to end all AP classes in the state in retaliation.

These actions have rightly led to tremendous scrutiny from the Florida and national press. Now, your administration is following its repeated attacks on individual journalists with a push to change the state’s defamation laws, making it impossible for reporters to do their jobs without taking on tremendous legal risks.

Journalists, educators, and students have a fundamental First Amendment right to free speech -- and that means a right to discuss controversial topics and to criticize their representatives.

We demand that your administration and its allies in the Florida Legislature:

  • Roll back the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and other legislation restricting the free speech of students and teachers.

  • Drop proposed changes to Florida defamation law that would silence journalists, including the removal of anonymous source protections.

  • Cease to make personal attacks against journalists, students, and educators exercising their First Amendment rights.

Thank you,