Ron DeSantis bans African American studies class from Florida high schools

Move by the Republican governor is the latest in a series of actions to stop conversations about race and gender in public schools

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, has rejected a new advanced placement course in African American studies from being taught on high school campuses. He argues that the course violates state law and “lacks educational value”.

This move is the latest in a series of actions to keep conversations and lessons about race, sexuality and gender identity off the state’s school campuses.

DeSantis officially banned the course in a letter from the state education department to the College Board, the organization that administers college readiness exams like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). They also oversee advanced placement (AP) courses, which allow students to earn college credits in subjects like English and chemistry.

In a 12 January letter to the College Board, the Florida education department said the course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value”.

In the summer of 2022, the College Board announced a pilot program to “offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies” would be launching in 60 high schools across the country during the 2022-23 school year and will be set to expand to other campuses the following year.

“Like all new AP courses, AP African American Studies is undergoing a rigorous, multiyear pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars and policymakers,” the College Board said in a statement.

“The process of piloting and revising course frameworks is a standard part of any new AP course and frameworks often change significantly as a result,” the statement continued.

DeSantis, a one-time Donald Trump ally, plays an active role in stoking social and political anxieties, primarily among white Americans, that stem from conversations about race and gender that occur on K-12 public school campuses. In April 2022, he signed the Stop Woke Act, which severely limits “race-based” discussions at schools.

He has also taken a similarly intolerant approach to conversations about LGBTQ+ people. In March 2022 he signed a highly controversial piece of legislation dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill. The policy forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. It has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it risks marginalizing LGBTQ+ people and put DeSantis in conflict with employees at Disney, a major source of tourism and employment in Florida.

The DeSantis administration is also asking Florida universities to disclose the number and ages of their students who sought gender dysphoria treatment, including sex reassignment surgery and hormone prescriptions. It remains unclear why he is surveying universities for this information, the Associated Press reports.


Abené Clayton

The GuardianTramp

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