Florida blocks high school Advanced Placement African American studies class

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate.

The state education department rejected the program in a letter last week to the College Board, which oversees AP classes.

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Florida education officials did not specify exactly what content the state found objectionable but said, “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

“In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, (the education department) will always be willing to reopen the discussion,” the letter continued.

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In a statement, the College Board said, “Like all new AP courses, AP African American Studies is undergoing a rigorous, multi-year pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars and policymakers.”

“The process of piloting and revising course frameworks is a standard part of any new AP course, and frameworks often change significantly as a result,” the statement read.

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The College Board website describes the course as interdisciplinary, touching on literature, arts, humanities, political science, geography and science. The pilot program is debuting at 60 schools across the country before it expands to additional schools. The organization has been working on constructing the course for more than a decade, according to its website.

DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, has opposed what he calls liberal ideologies in schools, including lessons around critical race theory, which examines systemic racism and has become a frequent target of conservatives.

Last year the governor signed legislation dubbed the Stop WOKE Act that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses. The law bars instruction that says members of one race are inherently racist or should feel guilt for past actions committed by others of the same race, among other things.

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More recently the governor’s budget office called on state colleges to submit spending information on programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory, raising concerns of potential funding cuts around such initiatives.

Sharon Courtney, a high school teacher in Peekskill, New York teaching the African American studies course, said her students were “shocked” to learn Florida blocked the class. She described it as a factual African history course that also details what Africans experienced upon their arrival in North America.

“There’s nothing objectionable, it’s history that hasn’t been traditionally taught in the United States in a K through 12 setting,” she said, “but it’s also history that once known and understood could change race relations and improve them.”

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Dr. Adora Obi Nweze, President of the NAACP Florida State Conference, released the following statement on the decision:

“The NAACP Florida State Conference condemns Governor DeSantis for his abhorrent and ignorant claims that a College Board AP African American History course has no ‘value.’ By pandering to those who willfully ignore the truth, Governor DeSantis not only insults Black Floridians, but he also sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the education of our children - particularly Black children.

“It is an affront that any governor would seek to undermine a valuable educational tool like the AP African American History course; one designed to give students an understanding and appreciation of their own pasts, as well as those of their ancestors. By blocking access to this important resource, our state’s children are being deprived of crucial knowledge required in order to gain a comprehensive and honest view of history. It is also ironic and telling that Florida offers AP World History, while denying African American History.

“Governor DeSantis’ decision is a shameful disservice to both education and progress. It is imperative that we all work together to provide all Florida students with equal access to quality education regardless of race - especially when it comes to teaching about such an essential aspect of American life. Anything less than this level of inclusion not only betrays our commitment toward civil rights - it also sends a message that we have yet again failed to embrace true racial equality.

“We urge Governor DeSantis and other members of his administration to think carefully about the consequences their actions will have on our future generations - particularly those from marginalized communities who often lack the resources necessary for learning outside what they are taught in school. We implore them to put aside any personal agendas and focus on undoing this wrong by reinstating AP African American History courses in Florida schools as soon as possible.”

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