On Wednesday (Jan. 25), civil rights attorney Ben Crump threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of three Florida high school students against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis over the state’s rejection of an Advanced Placement course on African American studies.
Crump held a news conference at the Florida Capitol where he was joined by leaders from the American Federation of Teachers, Florida politicians, and three AP honors students who will serve as the lead plaintiffs in the complaint.
“The question really is this, brothers and sisters. Are we going to let Gov. DeSantis, or anybody, exterminate Black history from the classrooms in Florida?” Crump asked the crowd who yelled “Black History is American History” at the event.
“We are here to give notice to Governor DeSantis that if he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African-American studies to be taught in the classrooms across the state of Florida, that these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit,” he added.
One of the students in attendance expressed their dismay at the lack of courses that study Black history in the Florida public school system.
“I realized that I have not learned much about the history or culture of my people outside of my parents and close relatives,” the student said.
State Sen. Shevrin Jones argued that the decision by the DeSantis administration is an example of how racism is still alive and well in America.
“The fight is not just about this AP course. The fight is against the strong uprising of racism from people who are seeing the shifting of America,” Jones said. “While the full and accurate historical record might make some uncomfortable—good!”
The fallout stems from a letter that Florida’s Department of Education Office of Articulation sent to the College Board to block the course on January 12 claiming that it went against the state’s “Stop Woke Act.”
“In its current form, the College Board’s AP African American Studies course lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” the letter stated. “In the future, should the College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”
The correspondence did not disclose what was unlawful about the African American studies course.
In a statement, the College Board responded to the state’s decision to block the course.
“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 statement read. “We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country.”
This week, the College Board issued a statement saying they will release the “original framework” for the course on Feb. 1.
“This framework, under development since March 2022, replaces the preliminary pilot course framework under discussion to date,” the statement read. “Before a new AP course is made broadly available, it is piloted in a small number of high schools to gather feedback from high schools and colleges. The official course framework incorporates this feedback and defines what students will encounter on the AP Exam for college credit and placement.”
The ban on the AP African American course is the latest attempt by DeSantis to suppress African Americans and other marginalized groups with extremist legislation. In July 2022, an injunction was filed to combat the “Stop WOKE Act” which prohibits teachings that people are privileged based on race, gender, or national origin. A federal judge in Florida issued a temporary injunction in November against the act’s implementation in higher education, which is still being battled in court.
In May, the GOP-controlled state legislature sought to eliminate two Black voting districts and Desantis’ administration has been sued for attempting to limit the Black voting power with his redistricting plans.
DeSantis also signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, aka the “Don’t Say, Gay,” into law in March 2022.
Our young students are the future of this nation. Their inquisitive minds have the chance to learn and excel in an advanced course about African Americans — who laid the groundwork for the foundation of this country. It would be shameful to waste that opportunity! pic.twitter.com/1sNa5tppiP
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 26, 2023
MEDIA ALERT: @AttorneyCrump & co-counsel will join students & elected officials to announce their intent to file a lawsuit against FL. Gov. DeSantis & the state of Florida for rejecting the AP African American Studies course from being taught in Florida high schools. pic.twitter.com/FIBHDrDtWI
— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) January 25, 2023