DeSantis signs bill for Florida students to learn about ‘victims of communism’


Discussions of gender identity and sexual preference are banned in many Florida classrooms because of governor Ron DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” law, alongside dozens of math textbooks blocked for “prohibited topics”.

Now the Republican who has loudly condemned what he sees as the “indoctrination” of young people has made another subject compulsory: students must receive at least 45 minutes’ instruction every November about the “victims of communism”.

In a ceremony Monday at Miami’s iconic Freedom Tower, where tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution were admitted into the US between 1962 and 1974, DeSantis signed into law House Bill 395, designating 7 November as Victims of Communism Day.

Florida is one of a handful of states to adopt the designation, but is believed to be the first to mandate school instruction on that day.

The instruction will begin in the 2023-2024 school year, DeSantis said, and will require teaching about Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, as well as “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence, and suppression of speech” endured under their leaderships in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba respectively.

DeSantis, mispronouncing the name of the revolutionary leader Che Guevara as “Che Kay-Farra”, railed against students who wear T-shirts he said were oblivious about what communism represented.

“You can see at a college campus students flying the hammer and sickle from the old Soviet Union flag, you will see students that will have T-shirts with Che Guevara, you will see students that will idolize people like Mao Zedong,” he said.

“To me, this speaks of a tremendous ignorance about what those individuals represented and the evils that communism inflicted on people throughout the world. While it’s fashionable in some circles to whitewash the history of communism, Florida will stand for truth and remain as a beachhead for freedom.”

Educators in Florida are banned, however, from teaching students about racial issues, including the history of slavery, if it makes them “feel uncomfortable”, according to DeSantis’s recently signed Stop Woke Act.

DeSantis, seen as a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has waged a war on perceived “wokeness” and “transgender ideology” in Florida’s campuses and workplaces in recent months.

He is feuding with Disney after the state’s largest private employer opposed the “don’t say gay” law that bans “inappropriate” classroom discussions of LGBTQ+ issues, and which is the subject of a legal challenge.

The governor, who is seeking re-election in November, has signed a number of other bills popular with the Republican base, including a 15-week abortion ban and a “racist” redrawing of Florida’s congressional maps that critics say robs Black voters of representation.

DeSantis’s detractors argue that the governor has focused on culture war issues while ignoring the real challenges facing the state’s residents, such as soaring rents that exacerbate racial inequality.

“Why the hell can we not focus for even a moment on what’s impacting people everyday?” Brandon Wolf, press secretary of Equality Florida, said in a tweet.

Jeanette Nunez, Florida’s lieutenant governor and the daughter of Cuban immigrants, hailed the move as a continuation of DeSantis’s efforts to remove critical race theory from classrooms, despite the fact it is not taught in them.

“We will always ensure that our students are getting the best education free of socialist ideologies and CRT and woke terms that we will not allow,” she said.

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