Students at Florida public universities, including Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Florida International University, among others, staged a coordinated walkout Thursday in protest of Governor Ron DeSantis’s ongoing attacks on education, including policies targeting people of color and LGBTQ people.
The student protests were inspired in part by the DeSantis administration’s order for public universities to provide data on how many people seek gender-affirming care. But the collective action also came to be a stance against the broader authoritarian onslaught directed underneath the DeSantis administration.
Florida school districts are banning books en masse, while others are closing their libraries in order to avoid prosecution under a new law that requires a “specialist” to review every book in school. The New College of Florida’s president was forced out by the DeSantis-stacked board of trustees and replaced with another DeSantis ally. DeSantis has pushed through the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade. He has lobbied for the “Stop Woke Act,” which restricts teaching on race in colleges. And he has announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses and to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on state college campuses.
DeSantis also banned schools from being able to teach Advanced Placement African American Studies, after his administration first pushed the College Board to water down the class anyway. He even filed an administrative complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation for hosting a drag show, stripping the organization of its liquor license.
While it may feel easy to yield to frustration or cynicism in the face of DeSantian authoritarianism, the kids, as always, are not relenting—for themselves, and those they may not ever know.
“Ron DeSantis, we’re on our way to take you down and we’re full-steam ahead for a better day,” Dream Defenders Tallahassee organizer Malik Gary told Teen Vogue. “For people that work in the minority class, for people of the Black and brown community, for people that identify in the LGBTQIA community, for folks that are somebody, no matter what color, or race, or gender, or ethnicity. Everybody is somebody and deserves respect.”