Lawyers say they are preparing to sue DeSantis over AP African American studies course

TALAHASEE — Black Florida leaders warned Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday that they would sue him for assaulting students if he did not stop his attempts to “wipe out black history” in Florida classrooms. constitutional rights.

“We’re here to inform Governor DeSantis,” Tallahassee civil rights attorney Ben Crump told cheering supporters in the Capitol Rotunda, with three high school students standing beside him.

they are protesting Announcement last week The Florida Department of Education rejected a new Advanced Placement elective in African American studies developed by the College Board for high school students.

“If he doesn’t negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American Studies to be taught in classrooms across Florida, these three young men will be lead plaintiffs,” said Crump, who has represented families at multiple high schools. Introduction to civil rights cases.

related: DeSantis says AP African American history class drives political agenda

The College Board is expected to release its updated AP courses on February 1, the first day of Black History Month. As a pilot program taught in 60 select classrooms across the country, the board has been seeking teacher feedback on curriculum revisions. It is unclear how many Florida schools are participating in the pilot program.

When the state sent a letter of objection to the College Board last week, it gave no reason for rejecting the course, other than a broad claim that it “lacks educational value.” It suggested that the College Board would reconsider allowing it to offer college credit in Florida high schools if it modifies its curriculum to appease the state.

The announcement was condemned two days later by the NAACP, ACLU and others critic Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, who accused the administration of whitewashing and “regression,” issued a clarification.

he sent a chart on twitter This suggested that the course was rejected because it included topics such as the movement for Black Lives Matter, Black feminism, reparations, and an author whose work touches on critical race theory, Black communism, and “queer theory.”

“We proudly demand that African American history be taught,” Diaz wrote, referring to a 1994 law requiring courses to include the study of black history. But, he added, if it’s “arousal indoctrination masquerading as education,” then it won’t work.

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DeSantis says talk was attempt at ‘indoctrination’

on Monday, DeSantis explained The government rejected the course because some of the topics were seen as attempts to “indoctrinate” by using black history to advance a political agenda.

Crump represented the family of George Floyd, who was killed on the neck of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020 Knelt and died; Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford in 2012. A lawsuit is filed if the College Board proposes a state-approved curriculum.

related: How Florida’s Ben Crupp Became the Go-to Lawyer in Trayvon Martin, George Floyd Cases

However, if the Department of Education continues to reject the course, attorneys for the NAACP, the Civil Rights Lawyers Committee and Pinellas Park attorney Craig Whisenhunt will join the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, three high school students in Leon County, will make the same arguments as the college professor when they appear before a federal judge, Crump said Stop the DeSantis administration from enforcing “Stop Wrongdoing To Our Children And Employees”. They argue the law has a chilling effect on speech in the classroom and is unconstitutional, violating professors’ First Amendment rights.

“The state of Florida cannot declare which views are considered orthodox and which views will be banned from college classrooms,” Crump said.

Alex Lanfranconi, director of educational communications, called Crump’s threat “nothing more than a baseless publicity stunt.”

Lanfranconi praised the College Board for modifying the classroom curriculum and suggested, without evidence, that the changes were in response to Florida’s protests.

“AP courses are standardized across the country, and because of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will be able to access historically accurate, unbiased courses,” Lanfranconi said.

Black leaders urge College Board not to ‘bow’ to pressure

Whisenhunt cited a case in Arizona, when a federal court struck down a law restricting Mexican-Americans from studying in the state when the Republican-led administration passed it.

“When it comes to a point, the government is not obsessed with the education of students,” Whisenhunt said. “With equal protection under the law, this effort by the governor disproportionately affects only some (people)” and “just to limit some content.”

Whisenhunt echoed comments from several Black leaders who said they hoped the College Board would not “bow in” to the governor’s demands.

“It was a 90-page document outlining the origin story to this day, and he singled out four or five things that he didn’t agree with, and honestly, those issues were worth discussing,” he said.

Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said she also has reservations if changes are made to address the governor’s complaint.

“We’re told that this AP African American history course will be revised and resubmitted, and it’s likely they’ll make enough revisions for the governor to approve it, but at what cost?” she asked. “Do we really agree with Ron DeSantis deciding the acceptability of black history for American students across the country?”

Three students talked about their desire to take AP classes (if available).

“Governor. DeSantis’ decision to deny this potentially life-changing course effectively censors our educational freedoms and protects us from ancestral truths,” said SAIL High School sophomore Elijah Edwards. “I think, in this country, we believe in the free exchange of ideas, not repression.”

“There are a lot of gaps in American history about the African-American population,” said Lyon High School junior Victoria McQueen. “The implementation of the AP African American History class will fill those gaps.”