Students to sue Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following ban of African American studies course

By Alma Fabiani

Updated Nov 6, 2023 at 08:43 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Three high school students are planning on suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following his administration’s controversial decision to reject a new Advanced Placement course (AP) covering African American studies. The news came only one day after the College Board announced it would revise the course—a stark contrast to the December 2020 law that made Connecticut the first state in the country to require high schools to offer black and Hispanic studies courses.

Although it’s unclear what tweaks will ultimately be made, DeSantis, who said the original coursework “pushed an agenda,” was quick to claim victory. The white politician once described critical race theory as “teaching kids to hate their country,” mirroring a similar push seen by conservative officials across the US.

“By rejecting the African American history pilot programme, Ron DeSantis has clearly demonstrated that he wants to dictate whose history does—and doesn’t—belong,” Democratic state Representative Fentrice Driskell stated at a news conference in Tallahassee, announcing the lawsuit, on Wednesday 25 January 2023.

If DeSantis does not allow the course to be taught in the state, high-profile civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has previously represented the families of George Floyd and Trayvon Martin, warned that he will be the one filing the lawsuit on behalf of the three lead plaintiffs. That same Wednesday, Crump led a rally inside the Florida Capitol alongside black Democratic state lawmakers to underscore what they say is Florida attempting to whitewash history.

“If the Governor allows the College Board to present AP African American studies in classrooms across the state of Florida, then we will feel no need to file this historic lawsuit,” the attorney told reporters at the Capitol. “However, if he rejects the free flow of ideas and suppresses African American studies, then we’re prepared to take this controversy all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”

While dozens of other states are also currently introducing legislation aiming to limit the teaching of various topics, such as race and American history, in public schools, it should be noted that these bills seem particularly successful in Florida.

It was DeSantis who signed the highly problematic ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill—which most have since dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill—in March 2022. The legislation essentially prevents public school teachers in Florida from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. Lovely stuff, right?

Shortly after, DeSantis doubled down, this time with the introduction of the ‘Stop Woke’ Act which set strict limits on how issues involving race may be taught and basically allowed parents to sue teachers and school districts that go against it.

Highlighting just how worrying and dire the state of the US’ current human rights situation is, Driskell ended her Tallahassee news conference with the question: “Are we really okay with Ron DeSantis deciding what’s acceptable for America’s students across the country about Black history?”

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