TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate.
The state education department rejected the program in a letter last week to the College Board, which oversees AP classes.
Florida education officials did not specify exactly what content the state found objectionable but said, “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
“In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, (the education department) will always be willing to reopen the discussion," the letter continued.
In a statement, the College Board said, “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 process of piloting and revising course frameworks is a standard part of any new AP course, and frameworks often change significantly as a result,” the statement read.
The College Board website describes the course as interdisciplinary, touching on literature, arts, humanities, political science, geography and science. The pilot program is debuting at 60 schools across the country before it expands to additional schools. The organization has been working on constructing the course for more than a decade, according to its website.
News4JAX spoke with Pastor Rudolph McKissick Jr., with The Bethel Church, who says the DeSantis is playing politics with Black history.
“Tell me why you think this has no value for those going to college? Tell me? What are you afraid your children are going to discover about the history of this country?” McKissick said.
A spokesperson for the governor, Bryan Griffin, wrote to News4JaX saying:
“As submitted, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large ambiguous gaps that can be filled with ideological material.”
McKissick, however, says it’s DeSantis, who ultimately has a political agenda,
“I think it’s very political. I think he’s running for the presidency, as a governor, and I think he’s throwing red meat to those who are on his side,” McKissick said. “And it’s interesting. He’s throwing the rock and hiding his hand because we haven’t heard from him.”
DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, has opposed what he calls liberal ideologies in schools, including lessons around critical race theory, which examines systemic racism and has become a frequent target of conservatives.
Last year the governor signed legislation dubbed the Stop WOKE Act that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses. The law bars instruction that says members of one race are inherently racist or should feel guilt for past actions committed by others of the same race, among other things.
More recently the governor's budget office called on state colleges to submit spending information on programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory, raising concerns of potential funding cuts around such initiatives.
Sharon Courtney, a high school teacher in Peekskill, New York teaching the African American studies course, said her students were "shocked" to learn Florida blocked the class. She described it as a factual African history course that also details what Africans experienced upon their arrival in North America.
“There’s nothing objectionable, it’s history that hasn’t been traditionally taught in the United States in a K through 12 setting,” she said, “but it’s also history that once known and understood could change race relations and improve them.”