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National Nurses United Condemns FL Bill HB 999 As Sweeping Attack On Higher Education

Photo: Cottbro Studio via Pexels | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Yesterday, after the referral of HB 999 to committee, National Nurses United (NNU) urged the bill's rejection, calling it "a new Florida bill intended to ban funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and eliminate majors focused on the study of race and gender in Florida colleges and universities.”

NNU went on to say, “This proposed legislation is an attack on students of color, women, and access for all students to essential curriculum in higher education.”

NNU President Triunfo-Cortez
NNU President Triunfo-Cortez    (NNU photo)

NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN., called HB 999 “an appalling attempt to roll back decades of initiatives to make colleges and universities reflective of the diverse population of Florida. And it would impose unacceptable limits on free expression, critical thinking, and the broad, humanitarian learning which should be the fundamental mission of higher education.”

National Nurses United represents thousands of Florida nurses who are alarmed at the implication for the future of nursing education and a comprehensive understanding of public health.

“This disgraceful bill could severely undermine our efforts to expand the diversity of our nursing workforce by sending a signal that students of color are not welcome in Florida colleges and universities, and that they would not have access to courses that represent them and the complex health needs of the communities they serve,” said Marissa Lee, a Florida RN and a member of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida, an NNU affiliate.

NNU President Triunfo-Cortez
NNU Nurse Mairssa Lee (NNU photo)

Ms. Lee continued, “It would also provide a devastating blow to our ability to provide an educational curriculum that addresses the health crises created by ongoing racial, gender, ethnic, and LGBTQ discrimination that we experience daily in health care for our patients and nurses and other health care workers.”

Implicit bias education and training for nursing students and new graduates are important in identifying persistent racial disparities, particularly in health care. This education addresses how structural racism and gender oppression differentially impact patient health and the delivery of care.

Last fall, California enacted landmark legislation to require implicit bias education and training for nursing students.

President Triunfo-Cortez said, “Florida is seeking to make discriminatory restrictions in education the model, at great cost to the nation. This law is intended to eliminate any discussion addressing persistent inequality, which is dangerous for democracy."

HB 999 would bar all public and private colleges and universities from spending any money to fund educational programs or activity that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.    

The bill bans entire majors, specifically, “any major or minor in Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative major or minor of these belief systems.” African-American studies departments may also be at risk in public institutions statewide. 

HB 999 would politicize hiring practices and academic freedom by making trustees, not college or university presidents and administrators, responsible for faculty hiring decisions. It would threaten tenure status, which could now be reviewed or suspended at any time.

President Triunfo-Cortez said those changes are a “direct attack on educators who do not adhere to the far right ideology of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his political agenda of autocratic attacks on public education, as seen in his notorious ‘Stop Woke Act,’ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and restrictions intended to eviscerate African American, gender, and other diversity studies in Florida schools.”

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 255,000 members nationwide. 

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