WESH: Students Will Sue DeSantis for Rejection of AP African American Studies

The fight over a new African American Studies course that’s not being allowed in Florida schools is going to court.

A group of students and elected officials say they’re planning to file a lawsuit against the state for banning the course.

Tuesday afternoon, the College Board announced it will release the official framework for AP African American Studies next week. This will replace what’s called the “pilot framework,” which was used to test the course in several schools across the country.

The Florida Department of Education’s decision to not allow the class in our state was based on that framework. It said the class lacked educational value and violated Florida law.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the course was clearly designed for “political purposes.”

In a new statement released Tuesday night, the department says it is glad the board recognized the original curriculum was problematic. It went on to say that it looks forward to reviewing the changes, and expects the removal of content on topics like critical race theory.

But there is still outrage over the state’s initial decision.

The NAACP accused the Department of Education of “whitesplaining” Black history and culture, saying its decision to restrict the class is a dangerous politicization of the curriculum.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has also joined the conversation.

Speaking from Tallahassee Wednesday, he announced he will work with AP students from Florida to file a lawsuit against the state for rejecting the class. Several other leaders were in attendance at the news conference.

Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said that DeSantis is suppressing first amendment rights by pushing to reject the course.

“By rejecting the program, DeSantis has made it clear he wants to dictate whose story does and doesn’t belong,” Driskell said. “Accurately teaching our history is not political until others make it so.”

Driskell said the governor is so “obsessed with woke” that he is “asleep at the wheel.” She said he cares more about headlines than Floridians and his only goal is to become the nominee for president.

Rep. Michele Rayner joined in the criticism of DeSantis, saying that he continues to target the vulnerable with “relentless political witch-hunts.” She said critical race theory is the new “dog whistle.”

“You cannot say on a Monday that you support Dr. King and then on Wednesday refuse to tell his story,” Rayner said.

She vowed to hold DeSantis and Florida for the “audacious” attack on Black children.

Supporters of the governor’s action, like attorney Trudy Smith, told WESH 2 that rejecting this specific course does not mean a rejection of the entire topic.

“Florida has a statute on the books that mandates that African American history be taught. But to say that students are missing out entirely on this really awesome subject matter is just not true,” Smith said.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson said only 12 Florida counties out of 67 have been singled out as doing an adequate job of teaching Black history.

She said any school that receives tax dollars should be required to teach African American history and there should be consequences for not doing so.

Fedrick C. Ingram, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, said DeSantis should be ashamed for saying the curriculum lacked educational value.

Crump said that if DeSantis and Florida do not allow the AP African American Studies course to be offered, he has three student plaintiffs that will file a historic lawsuit against the governor and the state.

“Are we going to allow Gov. DeSantis, or anybody, exterminate Black history from the classrooms in Florida?” he said.

The crowd replied with a resounding “No!” Crump finished by chanting, “Black history is American history.”

One attorney said the government in Arizona previously tried to ban Mexican American studies and it was found that doing so violated students’ constitutional rights.

Elijah Edwards, a 10th-grader, spoke directly to DeSantis, saying that he was excited to take the course and was disappointed when he learned it was rejected.

Junior Julliette Heckman said just because Florida lawmakers are “uncomfortable” with a topic doesn’t give them the right to take the opportunity to learn away from students.

“When there are those historical gaps, students turn to social media to fill in those necessary gaps. Not getting the factual based information,” Victoria McQueen, an 11th grader, said.

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