State Watch

Thirty organizations call for College Board CEO to resign over changes to AP African American studies course

More than 30 LGBT advocacy organizations have signed a letter to the College Board demanding the resignation of CEO David Coleman after the organization modified its Advanced Placement African American studies course following criticism from Florida’s Department of Education. 

The letter alleges that the College Board lacked transparency in its conversations with the Florida Department of Education and, until recent backlash, failed to recognize the harm caused from “unsubstantiated accusations” that the course curriculum followed a “woke” agenda.

“The public rollout of the College Board’s long-awaited Advanced Placement Black Studies Course has been a public relations and brand disaster for your institution causing pain, division, and turmoil for the community it sought to celebrate,” the letter said. 

The letter, which was signed by leading LGBT organizations, was spearheaded by the National Black Justice Coalition, which focuses on Black LGBT empowerment and equality, and the Human Rights Campaign. 

Last month, Florida’s Department of Education, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) rejected the AP course for schools in the state, asserting that it “lacking educational value.” 

“As submitted, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’s press secretary, said at the time. “As Governor DeSantis has stated, our classrooms will be a place for education, not indoctrination.”

DeSantis defended the decision at a press conference, where he specifically said the topic of Black Queer Studies was problematic.

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Law” — went into effect this school year and bans discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity “in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Florida has also banned schools from teaching “critical race theory,” an academic framework that aims to understand racism in the United States. Most experts on the subject have noted that the theory is typically taught in colleges, not elementary or high schools, but opposition to the concept has become a rallying cry for Republicans.

Despite DeSantis receiving backlash for rejecting the course, the College Board and Florida reportedly sent letters discussing the course framework, and on Feb. 1 the College Board announced a new curriculum. 

The new curriculum removed Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, as well as readings that touched on the Black LGBT experience and Black feminism. It added “Black conservatism” as a potential research topic for students. DeSantis’s office took credit for the curriculum changes.

But after facing criticism for the new framework, the College Board released a letter accusing Florida’s Department of Education of slander and said changes were not made at the behest of the state. It added that the subjects that appeared to be removed were actually optional research topics for students to pursue independently.

But the letter from leading LGBT organizations said the College Board met with Florida officials multiple times before the release of the course revisions. 

“The meetings with Florida officials were about removing the depth, breadth, and recency of Black history in its study of Black life – including the removal of Black feminist and queer life and history, the movements for reparations and Black lives, and more,” the letter said. 

“After the Florida Department of Education released documentation of letters and meetings, the College Board deleted that press release and admitted that “certain terms and concepts were removed because they were politicized in several states,”’ the advocacy organizations continued.

The letter added that the course revisions, including topics being made optional, were the result of partisan political pressure.

“New leadership is required if the College Board lacks the courage and character to advocate for students and academic freedom; and against the DeSantis regime’s book banning, censorship, and surveillance agenda,” the letter said. “Without the courageous leadership needed for this moment in history, the College Board will continue to be a pawn in the political games of governors and other elected officials advancing a white nationalist, anti-democratic agenda.”

The College Board did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

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