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Students threaten to sue DeSantis over AP African American studies ban

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Florida students will file a lawsuit if DeSantis doesn't reverse his ban on the course.


Multiple Florida students are prepared to sue Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis over his administration’s decision to outlaw an Advanced Placement African American studies course in the state's public high schools.

During a news conference Wednesday, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said the students are giving DeSantis “notice” that if his administration doesn’t reverse its decision on the ban, the students are prepared to take legal action.

The DeSantis administration has claimed that the course "significantly lacks educational value" and that its inclusion of works by Black scholars like Kimberlé Crenshaw, bell hooks and Angela Davis, as well as its references to the Movement for Black Lives, reparations and queer studies, violated Florida law. And DeSantis suggested Monday that the course's reference to Black LGBTQ people shows it's pushing "an agenda."

Spoken like a willful idiot. 

Fortunately, the students who spoke at Wednesday’s news conference at the state Capitol in Tallahassee — all of whom would serve as lead plaintiffs in a potential lawsuit — were much more adept at assessing the potential for knowledge. 

“As I have gone through my years of schooling as a Black kid in Florida, I have realized that I have not learned much about the history or culture of my people outside of my parents and close relatives," said Elijah Edwards, a 10th grader.

“This fact unsettled me for some time," he added. "But after I heard that there might be an African American studies AP class, I was ecstatic."

Edwards said the course would give him and other students a “glimmer of hope to learn about the roots of our lineage,” but that DeSantis chose to “effectively censor the freedom of our education and shield us from the truths of our ancestors.”

Juliette Heckman, an 11th grade student, condemned the "ignorant opinions" that led the state to block the course.

“When I heard the news that there was an AP course in the works that was designated specifically to African American studies, I was grateful,” said Heckman, who is white. “Grateful in the sense that this side of history — one which is notoriously ignored and disregarded — would finally be given the proper and sufficient representation that it deserves.”

Speaking of people like DeSantis who want to prohibit the course, she said, “It is not fair for our education to be constricted under the ignorant opinions of those who reject a course that is designed to only advance our understanding of the world around us.”

And Victoria McQueen, a Black 11th grader, said the ban is “further oppressing a group that has done more for this country than the country has done for them.” 

“Stealing the right for students to gather knowledge on a history that many want to know about because it’s ‘a political agenda’ goes to show that some don’t want this — the horrors this country has done to African Americans — to come to light," she said.

DeSantis, a former teacher who was accused of pushing conservative views on his students, is clearly trying to impose his warped view of history on Florida’s students. And the Florida students we heard from Wednesday are having none of it.