Backlash grows over DeSantis’ decision to block AP’s African-American studies class

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing a growing backlash over his administration’s decision to ban an advanced high school course in African-American studies, with black leaders gathering in the capital, a prominent advocate for Civil Rights threatening to sue and state lawmakers urging him to overturn the decision.

Attorney Ben Crump accused DeSantis of violating the federal and state constitutions on Wednesday by refusing to authorize the course. His legal team noted that a federal judge found that a 2010 law in Arizona banned a Mexican-American studies program from Tucson schools was unconstitutional and that officials were “motivated by racial animosity.”

The state’s Department of Education argues that the class is “inexplicably against Florida law.” A new education law championed by DeSantis requires that lessons about race be taught in “objective subject matter” and “not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students of any particular point of view.” Some education advocates and teachers say the law is so broad that it has a chilling effect on teaching black history.

“If he doesn’t negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American Studies to be taught in Florida state classrooms, these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit,” Crump said before introducing the students.

Crump has been involved in several high-profile civil rights cases involving black Americans and has vowed that DeSantis “can’t exterminate our culture.”

The latest controversy in Florida education policies began this month, when the DeSantis administration said a pilot advanced placement course in black history would not be approved by the Department of Education. state education because he violated state law and “lack of educational value.”

The state Department of Education listed “concerns” in the curriculum, including topics spanning “intersectionality and activism,” “black feminist literary theory,” and “black queer studies.”

“Now who would say that a major part of black history is queer theory?” DeSantis said at a press conference this week. “He’s someone pushing an agenda on our kids.”

But critics of the governor, who has made eliminating what he calls ‘woke indoctrination’ from schools and businesses a key part of his platform, say he is unfairly targeting black history by not allowing the course to be taught in Florida. Other advanced placement classes, such as European History, have not been reviewed by the DeSantis administration.

The College Board said in a news release Tuesday that the “official framework” for the course will be released Feb. 1, replacing the pilot curriculum and incorporating feedback from high schools and colleges. It does not mention the contribution of public officials.

A College Board spokesperson declined to say whether the program was adjusted in light of the DeSantis administration’s concerns. AP classes take two to six years to develop, according to the board, and “are regularly reviewed thereafter.”

Florida Department of Education spokesman Alex Lanfranconi said in a statement that the administration is “encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend.” He added that the state would reconsider approving the class after reviewing the new curriculum.

“We look forward to reviewing the changes made by the College Board and expect the removal of content on critical race theory, Black Queer studies, intersectionality, and other topics that violate our law,” Lanfranconi said.

Meanwhile, dozens gathered at a “Stop the Black Attack” rally in Tallahassee organized by Equal Ground, a voting rights group. Several speakers accused DeSantis of trying to further marginalize the state’s black community during his tenure. State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) said DeSantis should tackle issues like “crumbled schools, dilapidated buildings in our communities” and high property insurance costs.

“These are the issues that are being ignored because we have to deal with the promotion of Jim Crow 3.0 by people who don’t know and don’t care about what’s going on in black communities, but they want to arbitrate how you teach our history,” Jones said.

DeSantis said he wants students to learn about black history — and by law they are required to — but accused teachers to indoctrinate students to believe in an “enlightened ideology”.

Black caucus leaders in the state legislature plan to engage with national civil rights organizations to establish additional educational opportunities around black history so that students “do not have to wait for a state or a governor to see the value of their story,” the lawmakers said in a statement this week.

State Rep. Michele Rayner (D) said DeSantis was conducting a political “witch hunt” and violating Florida students’ freedom of learning — and the students knew about it.

“They know erasing history is no secret,” Rayner said. “There are 2.8 million students sitting in Florida public schools right now knowing their governor doesn’t want them learning black history.”