Three Florida high school students are threatening to sue Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida over a recently announced statewide ban on a new Advanced Placement course on African American history.
The threatened legal action was announced Wednesday on behalf of the AP honors students who accuse the state and its Republican governor of censoring public education while heavily favoring white history over Black.
“Certainly there are other advanced placement histories, such as AP European History, AP U.S. History and AP World History, all predominantly generated towards white people,” high school junior Victoria McQueen, one of the potential plaintiffs, said at a press conference alongside civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who would be representing them.
“If he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow African American studies to be taught in classrooms in the state of Florida, these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit,” Crump said of DeSantis.
The pilot program on African American studies was banned in Florida under DeSantis’ so-called “Stop WOKE Act,” which he signed into law last year. The legislation places restrictions on how racism and other aspects of history can be taught in schools and workplaces. It includes a ban on teaching “critical race theory,” a college-level framework of study which argues that racism is embedded in legal systems and government policies.
Florida’s Department of Education (DOE) said a number of topics ― including on critical race theory, Black queer studies and intersectionality ― need to be removed in order for the course to be taught in the state’s schools.
“As Governor DeSantis said, African American History is American History, and we will not allow any organization to use an academic course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda,” said Florida Department of Education Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi in a statement Wednesday.
The College Board announced Tuesday that it will present its official framework on the course on Feb. 1 after considering feedback it has received from high schools and colleges that have already participated in the pilot program nationwide.
“This framework, under development since March 2022, replaces the preliminary pilot course framework under discussion to date,” the nonprofit organization said, without sharing any specifics on how the official course may differ from the pilot.
Florida’s DOE, in a letter to the College Board last week, said the AP course includes historically inaccurate content and “significantly lacks educational value.” It suggested that the course be amended for any future consideration.
The pilot course is “indoctrination, not education,” DeSantis said at a press conference Monday.
“Who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory?” he said. “That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”