Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration rejects African American AP course

The state Department of Education claims it does not comply with Florida law.

January 20, 2023, 6:05 PM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration has rejected an African American history course that is set to be a part of the college board's slate of advanced placement courses in high schools.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, the Florida Department of Education rejected the course, calling it "inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

"If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the department will reopen the discussion," a Florida DOE official told ABC News.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol, Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Lynne Sladky/AP, File

The course is currently being piloted in a small number of high schools across the country with plans to roll out the course for any high school that wants it in the 2024-2025 school year.

"The interdisciplinary course reaches into a variety of fields -- literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography and science -- to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans," read a College Board description of the course.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the DeSantis administration's rejection of the course "incomprehensible," while noting that the state did not block other AP classes like European history.

"But the state chooses to block a course that is meant for high-achieving high school students to learn about their history of arts and culture,” she told reporters during a press briefing Friday afternoon. "It is incomprehensible, again, and I will just leave it there to make your own determination of why this occurred and why this happened."

Florida Department of Education on Friday published a detailed "list of concerns" found within the rejected AP African American history studies course.

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. tweeted Friday evening that the AP course was "filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law."

"We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education," he continued.

Some of the concerns noted were topics on Black Queer Studies, Movements for Black Lives, and The Reparations Movement.

Some educators and students across the state have told ABC News that they fear DeSantis' effort to rid schools of so-called "trendy ideologies" will target and erase important curriculum on the racial history of the U.S. from schools.

This is just the latest effort in DeSantis' war on "woke"-ness, or marginalized identities, in education. He has made this a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, and has been speculated to be a potential 2024 presidential candidate for conservatives.

"We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy, we will not allow reality, facts and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die," DeSantis said during his Jan. 3 inauguration.

DeSantis is behind the "Stop WOKE" Act, which restricts race-related content in workplaces, schools and colleges. However, the law has been temporarily blocked and is being battled in the courts.

He also signed into law the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which restricts content on sexual orientation and gender identity from some classrooms.

Critics say these legislative efforts are censorship.

"Far from indoctrinating students into a so-called 'woke agenda,' educators often struggle to teach about the history and origins of racism ... [Stop WOKE] would deepen this learning gap as educators, understandably fearful of public threats to police them, seek to avoid the penalties embedded in the law for teaching about prohibited topics such as the factual disparities in wealth, education and housing for Black people in this country," the Southern Poverty Law Center said in response to the law.

DeSantis has also begun investigating data on higher education courses related to "diversity, equity and inclusion," as well as "critical race theory."