Florida students sue state for rejecting AP African American studies

Three Florida high school students have filed a lawsuit following the state's decision to ban a new AP course on African American studies. 

In a news conference on Wednesday in Tallahassee, Attorney Ben Crump was joined by several state lawmakers, a teacher union member, and the three AP honors students who are filing the lawsuit. 

Saying that an African-American studies course "lacks educational value," Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is defending its rejection of the curriculum, while Black religious leaders and elected officials are pledging to "fight like hell" against the decision.

Black lawmakers, religious leaders, and local elected officials are organizing events to speak out after the state Department of Education’s Office of Articulation on Jan. 12 sent a letter advising a senior director at The College Board that the Advanced Placement African American Studies course won’t be offered in Florida public schools. The College Board develops Advanced Placement courses.

"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, these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit," Crump said, referring to Gov. DeSantis.

"By rejecting the African American History pilot program, Ron DeSantis has clearly demonstrated that he wants to dictate whose story does and doesn't belong," said Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa. 

The comment comes just days after Driskell said the DeSantis administration’s decision is the "first of what I believe will be many attempts to whitewash history in order to suit emotionally fragile people." But during a news conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis defended the rejection, which has drawn national media coverage in recent days and criticism from the Biden administration.

"We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes," DeSantis said.

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses are college-level classes offered to high-school students.

The Department of Education last week published a list of "concerns found within" the course and focused on five topics: "intersectionality and activism," "Black queer studies," "movements for Black lives," "the reparations movement" and "Black study and Black struggle in the 21st Century."

"Intersectionality is foundational to critical race theory (CRT), and ranks people based on their race, wealth, gender and sexual orientation," one of the listed concerns said. DeSantis frequently decries critical race theory, which is based on the premise that racism is embedded in American society, characterizing the theory as a vehicle for the indoctrination of students.

The department said a concern about instruction related to the reparations movement is that all "points and resources in this study advocate for reparations."

"There is no critical perspective or balancing opinion in this lesson," the department said.

The department also took issue with several authors whose works would have been required reading in the course. But the rejection has drawn widespread criticism from Democrats and Black leaders.

The College Board may still make changes to the course curriculum. The state said it is open to working with the College Board on a course that will be acceptable to the current state policy.