DeSantis’ ban of AP African American studies in Florida schools could set worrying precedent

Civil rights Attorney Ben Crump has set his sights on Florida, announcing during a Wednesday news conference at the State Capitol his intent to potentially sue Gov. Ron DeSantis. The lawsuit would be filed if DeSantis refuses to negotiate with the College Board, an organization that oversees Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to permit AP African American studies – a class the Republican lawmaker banned from being taught in Florida classrooms.

Three high school students will serve as the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit Crump will file with co-counsel Craig Whisenhunt were DeSantis to reject the College Board’s revised version of AP African American studies. College Board plans to release framework on the course at the beginning of next month.

“You cannot exterminate us, you cannot exterminate our culture, and you can never exterminate the value of our children to this world,” said Crump, who has a long history of fighting police brutality and other civil rights issues.

Earlier this month, the state’s Department of Education (FDOE) sent a letter to the College Board stating it would not approve the inclusion of AP African American studies, claiming it violates Florida law and “significantly lacks educational value.”

The letter added: “In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”

DeSantis defended his administration’s decision Monday at a news conference in Jacksonville, saying that the course promoted an “agenda” and criticized its inclusion of what he referred to as “queer theory,” which is typically taught on a college level and not in K-12 schools.

“That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards,” DeSantis said.

The governor’s office did not specify which state law the course would be violating.

In 2022, the Florida state Legislature passed the “Stop WOKE” Act, which sets boundaries for how race can be taught in classrooms.

Bernice King, the youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted a statement urging the College Board to demand that the state explain what part of the curriculum it considers to be inappropriate.

“We as citizens must demand the truth,” she said.

The ban could have drastic ramifications for other parts of the country as well. So far, 18 states have banned critical race theory, the understanding of the role systemic racism plays in modern society, from being taught at the grade school level.

A bill introduced in the Texas Legislature last December would ban the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives from being used in publicly funded colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez told the state Board of Governors, the public university system’s constitutional body, that the state is seeking to “curb” those same initiatives.

She delivered her remarks this week at Miami’s Florida International University.

Separately, Florida recently became the second-highest in the country for its number of book bans, a Pen America report stated.

Fedrick Ingram, the secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teacher unions, asked DeSantis at his Monday news conference to let teachers do their jobs.

“Give us the resources that we need. Give us the working materials we always ask for,” he said. “That’s what we need to create a better environment for our students.”

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