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College Board responds to Florida rejection of AP African American studies

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(TALLAHASSEE) — The College Board has addressed the Florida Department of Education’s rejection of AP African American Studies courses and subsequent criticism of the program, as well as the controversy that ensued.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ DOE initially rejected the course on Jan. 12 in a letter obtained by ABC News, calling it “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

Florida’s “Stop WOKE” Act restricts certain race-related content in workplaces, schools and colleges in the state. Supporters of the legislation argued that some lessons taught “kids to hate our country or to hate each other,” according to DeSantis in a 2021 statement on the law.

Critics claim the legislation will be used to remove important lessons on race, racism and oppression from classrooms.

According to an open letter from the College Board on Thursday, the College Board said it never received written feedback from the Florida DOE specifying how the course violates Florida law, despite repeated requests.

“On three occasions beginning in September 2022, we requested from FDOE specific information about why the pilot course was deemed out of compliance with Florida law,” the College Board open letter read. “We received a commitment that such feedback would be provided, but it never was.”

College Board also claimed that in a Feb. 7 letter from the state DOE, the department characterized course topics as “historically fictional” but did not specify which topics were as described, or why they were deemed as such.

“If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the department will reopen the discussion,” a Florida DOE official told ABC News in January about the course rejection.

The College Board denied it provided the FDOE with a preview of the official course framework and that “no topics were removed because they lacked educational value. We believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value.”

The FDOE did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. An alleged letter from the Florida Department of Education, reported on by the New York Times, claimed Florida officials and the College Board were in consistent communication about the state’s complaints concerning the course.

The official framework was released on Feb. 1 in honor of Black History Month.

The course was first piloted during this 2022-23 school year in just 60 schools and will be expanded to hundreds of additional schools with the official course framework for the next round of pilot courses in the 2023-24 school year.

The College Board said that all piloted courses go through revision before they are officially launched.

The framework was missing some of its most controversial material – including lessons on intersectionality, Black queer studies, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, which particularly angered some conservatives and the DeSantis administration.

However, the College Board claims it was not influenced by Florida officials.

“Many AP courses, especially those based in history and culture, deal with contested topics. The AP Program navigates those challenging waters by relying on our AP Principles,” the open letter read. “These principles make it abundantly clear that we stand against censorship and indoctrination equally.”

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