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AP African American studies canceled by Arkansas officials just before school begins

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(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — The Arkansas Department of Education has removed the AP African American Studies course from its schools in what the state’s professional organization of educators called a “last-minute” decision.

The Arkansas Education Association told ABC News the move came “at 4:02 on Friday before schools start on the following Monday.”

“Having this course pulled out from under our students at this late juncture is just another racist move that has already played out in other states,” the organization said.

It continued, “It is our sincere hope that this last-minute decision will be seriously reconsidered in a timely manner so that the students of Arkansas will be able to take this course this year to be able to receive both high school credit and college credit pending successful completion.”

The AP African American course first became the center of controversy when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration rejected the course in January. The Florida Department of Education called it “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

The course was first piloted during the 2022-23 school year in just 60 schools and has been expanded to hundreds of additional schools for the next round of pilot courses in the 2023-24 school year.

“Throughout the first pilot year, we heard countless stories from the classroom about how this course opened minds, changed lives, and provided a much richer understanding of the country,” College Board told ABC News.

All schools can begin offering AP African American Studies in the 2024-25 school year.

The College Board told ABC News it consulted more than 300 African American Studies professors from more than 200 colleges across the country to build the coursework.

Arkansas Department of Education said the department “encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination” in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education also said that concerns about whether the course would be applicable for college credit is uncertain, adding that some state policies that restrict certain lessons on race could infringe on a teacher’s ability to teach the course.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order in January that prohibits certain lessons on race, specifically targeting “Critical Race Theory.”

College Board told ABC News that more than 200 colleges and universities have signed on to provide college credit for the course, “including the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, the flagship institution of the University of Arkansas System.”

Six schools in the state were expected to participate in this second year of the pilot, including Central High School, which College Board noted is a “site vital to the country’s Civil Rights Movement, and its Little Rock 9 and their role in public school desegregation efforts are covered in the class.”

“On this first day of school, we share in their surprise, confusion and disappointment at this new guidance that the course won’t count toward graduation credits or weighted the same as other AP courses offered in the state,” College Board said in a statement.

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