Students Eyeing Lawsuit against DeSantis for Banning AP African American Studies

Jan 26, 2023 12:36:43 PM


Student activists, alongside prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Craig Whisenhunt, threatened a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The lawsuit would be a response to DeSantis’ recent rejection of a  pilot AP African American Studies course. 

Crump announced the planned action at the “Stop The Black Attack” rally at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday. Three AP honors students — Elijah Edwards, Victoria McQueen and Juliette Heckman — would serve as lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Crump also was joined by prominent Florida state legislators who staunchly oppose DeSantis’ contentious political agenda, including Rep. Shevrin Jones and Rep. Michele Rayner. 

“We are here to give notice to Gov. DeSantis that if he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American Studies to be taught in the classrooms across the state of Florida that these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit and you all will remember their names,” Crump said. 

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz recently tweeted that the AP course is “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” The six concerns found within the course include Black queer studies and literature from Angela Davis and bell hooks. This rejection of the course is a byproduct of the state’s 2021 Stop WOKE law, which prohibits critical race theory within the curriculum.

David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, says the spark in student activism is a canary in the coal mine for the issues Black students disproportionately face.  

“I want everybody to be clear that Black students represent about 13% of the population in Florida and so few of them have access to AP courses,” Johns told Education Post. “They are 2.2 times more likely to be expelled, disciplined and pulled into the school-to-prison and trafficking pipeline. Our babies do not have the kind of support that is required to develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to compete in our global workforce.”

If a lawsuit is filed, what happens next?  Whisenhunt believes the foreseeable consequence would be African American history getting sidelined in the education system. “If they are able to come to a resolution that puts this curriculum in front of students in Florida without me having to sue over it, I would much rather it go that way,” he said. “If I sue, it’ll take time and I want this course to be in front of students next year.”

Mia Uzzell

Mia Uzzell is student journalist covering grassroots movements, education and HBCU Culture. She’s currently at senior at Florida A&M University.

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