(Reuters) – Florida will not allow high school students to take a new Advanced Placement (AP) class in African American Studies, saying in a letter to College Board, the nonprofit that develops the courses, that the pilot version “lacks educational value.”
The letter to the educational nonprofit – which runs the Advanced Placement Program – was the latest move by the conservative administration of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to criticize and even outlaw some educational efforts about racism and slavery.
The College Board administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement tests that help students gain college credit while in high school. It is developing its first African American Studies course through a pilot program at 60 high schools.
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” reads the Jan. 12 letter by Florida’s Office of Articulation and posted on Twitter by an ABC News journalist.
Florida is one of several states that have banned public schools from teaching “Critical Race Theory,” an academic framework that teaches “racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice. It is embedded in laws, policies and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities,” according to the NAACP. Some conservatives view teaching this as inaccurate and harmful.
In its letter, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) did not indicate how the interdisciplinary course, which draws on literature, the arts, political science and other disciplines, broke state law or lacked educational value.
However, the letter went on to say that the state might reconsider its stance should the content of the course change.
“In the future, should 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 letter said.
The move sparked swift backlash among some civil rights activists and Democratic lawmakers who said it was discriminatory.
“Ron DeSantis wants to pretend that Black history isn’t American history. Leaders like him are the reason why Florida has seen a huge surge in hate crimes and acts of racism over the last two years,” said newly elected Florida congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost.
“The State of Florida will allow AP European and American studies — but AP African-American studies is ‘contrary to Florida law’?” posted Martin Luther King Jr. III on Twitter. “Please explain how this isn’t blatantly racist. Floridians deserve a clear answer.”
The College Board said in a statement to Reuters that the course aims to “explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.” It is a humanities course and as such does not teach theory, the statement said.
The Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Thursday, or confirm that it had sent the letter rejecting the course.
The College Board did not directly address Florida’s letter. But the nonprofit said in a separate statement to Reuters that the course was still under development.
In a separate move this week, the presidents of Florida’s state college system said they would not provide funding for course or activities that “compel” a belief in Critical Race Theory, without pointing to any specific programs that did.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Aurora Ellis)