Fact Check: Did Ron DeSantis ban AP African American studies in Florida?

Since his election, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has opposed education practices that he argues take an unduly critical view of America’s history and its relationship to race.

Last year, DeSantis prohibited educators from teaching critical race theory in K-12 classrooms, part of a bill he said would put an end to “corporate and educational indoctrination in Florida”.

Recently, the Republican governor attracted criticism from his political opponents after his administration’s decision to reject a new supplementary high school course in African American studies, with some pointing the blame directly at him.

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ office has defended a decision by his administration to reject an AP Course in African American studies. Ron DeSantis has previously taken action to ban Critical Race Theory and the New York Times’ 1619 project in Florida’s schools. The 1619 Project began as a collection of essays re-examining the legacy of slavery in the U.S. in a special issue of The New York Times magazine in 2019.
L-R: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The Claim

A tweet by Democratic New York Congressman Ritchie Torres, posted on January 19, 2022, claimed that Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had “banned the teaching of AP African American Studies in Florida.”

Torres’ tweet, which has been viewed more than 6.8 million times, added: “Florida has gone from Don’t Say Gay to Don’t Say Black.”

The Facts

The Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course for high school students was part of a pilot scheme at 60 schools across the country, administered by the College Board, which oversees AP.

According to its website, AP lets high school students try college-level work, with exams contributing to college credit and placement.

However, in a letter dated January 12 from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Articulation (seen by Newsweek), the course was rejected due to what it said were issues with its content.

“In its current form, the College Board’s A.P. African American Studies course lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” Cassandra Palelis, press secretary for the Florida Department of Education, told Newsweek.

“If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the Department will reopen the discussion.”

In a separate statement to Newsweek, DeSantis’ deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern said the course as it exists lacks “historical accuracy” and “educational value.”

The decision was criticized on social media, including the tweet by Torres.

An information page for the AP program states it is “in development”, with “hundreds of additional schools” to join in the pilot between 2023 to 2024. It won’t be until next year that all schools can be offered the AP course.

Its website adds: “The AP Program is committed to developing AP African American Studies and has already engaged faculty from hundreds of colleges and universities to ensure the course reflects the academic rigor of introductory college courses within the discipline.”

A page on “Course Development” states that courses “typically undergo a two- to six-year development process before they are implemented in classrooms” with development committees set up to “determine the general content and ability level of each exam.”

As mentioned, the Florida Department of Education has said it is willing to “reopen the discussion” about the course should its content change.

Additionally, a report by the BBC stated the College Board said the course was “undergoing a rigorous, multi-year pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars and policymakers”.

“We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country,” it added.

Whether a reopened discussion will lead to the approval of the African American Studies course remains to be seen, but the blockage is not necessarily a permanent outright ban.

DeSantis has been critical of the teaching of critical race theory, last year signing a House Bill known as the S.T.O.P Woke Act which among other aims revised “requirements for required instruction on the history of African Americans.”

A statement on DeSantis’ website following his signing of the bill said: “This legislation is the first of its kind in the nation to take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory in schools in one act.”

Newsweek has contacted DeSantis, the Florida Department of Education, the College Board, and Ritchie Torres for comment.

The Ruling

Needs Context

Needs Context.

The African American Studies AP course was blocked in its current form by DeSantis’ administration, but the Florida Department of Education said it would reopen discussions about a revised version that was in compliance with state law.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Check team

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