Students threaten to sue DeSantis over rejection of AP African American Studies course

Several Florida students say they plan to sue the state and Gov. Ron DeSantis over the state’s rejection of the Advanced Placement African American Studies course in public schools.

“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 primary plaintiffs,” the college said. civil rights lawyer Ben Crump at a press conference on Wednesday. .

The lawsuit is supported by Crump and attorney Craig Whisenhunt, who will represent three AP high school students.

“I realized that I hadn’t learned much about the history or culture of my people outside of my parents and relatives,” said one of the students involved in the lawsuit during the the press conference.

PHOTO: Attorney Ben Crump, standing with family members of Tire Nichols, speaks to the press, January 23, 2023, after meeting with Memphis police about what happened during a stop road and how he became deadly on January 7.

Attorney Ben Crump, standing with family members of Tire Nichols, speaks to the press, January 23, 2023, after meeting with Memphis police about what happened during a traffic stop and how he became fatal on January 7.

ABC News

Another student at the press conference argued that DeSantis had no “right to take this opportunity from thousands of students across the state.”

“There are many gaps in American history regarding the African American population,” said a third student. “Implementing an African American history course from PA could fill these gaps.”

The governor’s office referred the questions to the Florida Department of Education.

“This threat is nothing more than a worthless publicity stunt,” Florida Department of Education communications director Alex Lanfranconi said in a statement to ABC News on Wednesday.

Last year, DeSantis signed into law the “Stop WOKE” law, restricting talk and teaching about race in workplaces, schools and colleges. The law includes a ban on teaching or business practices that claim members of an ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilty for past actions committed by others. A federal judge in Florida issued a temporary injunction in November against the law’s implementation in higher education, which is still being debated in court.

“We seek normality, not philosophical madness, we will not allow reality, facts and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke crowd. Florida is where the revival will die,” DeSantis said during his January 3 inauguration.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, the state’s DOE rejected the course, calling it “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacking in educational value.”

PICTURED: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol, January 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol on January 3, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Lynne Sladky/AP, file

“If the course is compliant and incorporates historically accurate content, the department will reopen the discussion,” a Florida DOE official previously told ABC News.

The state’s DOE said in the letter that it is concerned about several course topics, including Black Queer studies, intersectionality and activism, black feminist literary thought, and the reparations movement.

During Wednesday’s press conference on the potential lawsuit, several state lawmakers criticized DeSantis for his administration’s recent efforts to restrict education about race and diversity.

State Representative Michele Rayner said “critical race theory” has become a racist dog whistle used to erase the stories of racial justice icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King from classrooms.

“You can’t say Monday you support Dr. King and Wednesday refuse to tell his story,” Rayner said.

The course is currently being piloted in a small number of high schools across the country with plans to roll out the course to any high school that wants it during the 2024-25 school year, the College Board said. The Advanced Placement Program will release the official framework for the AP African American Studies course on February 1 in time for Black History Month, replacing the preliminary framework for the pilot course.

“The process of piloting and revising course frameworks is an integral part of any new AP course, and frameworks often change significantly as a result,” the College Board said in a Jan. 20 statement. “We will publicly release the updated course framework when it is complete and well before this class is widely available in American high schools. We look forward to delivering this rich and inspiring exploration of Afro history and culture. -Americans to students across the country.”

The College Board did not say how the framework to be released will differ from the framework being piloted or whether any of the changes will be a direct response to Florida’s concerns about the course.

Lanfranconi of the Florida DOE said, “As Governor DeSantis has said, African-American history is American history, and we will not allow any organization to use a college course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda. changes and expect content on critical race theory, black queer studies, intersectionality, and other topics that violate our laws to be removed. »

“The interdisciplinary course touches on a variety of subject areas — literature, arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans,” read a College Board description of the course.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. tweeted Friday night that the AP course was “filled with critical race theory and other clear violations of Florida law.”

“We proudly demand the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination disguised as education,” he continued.

The White House last week called Florida’s rejection of the AP’s African American history course “incomprehensible.”

“It’s incomprehensible, that — to see that that’s what this group or bloc to be more specific, that DeSantis put forward, if you think about the study of black Americans, that’s what ‘He wants to block,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Jan. 20 press briefing.

ABC News’ Tesfaye Negussie and Averi Harper contributed to this report.