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Virginia reviews AP African American studies course amid nationwide debate

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(RICHMOND, Va.) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is reviewing College Board’s Advanced Placement African American studies course, following nationwide debate over the curriculum that erupted after the course was rejected by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“After numerous reports about draft course content, the governor asked the Education Secretariat to review the College Board’s proposed AP African American Studies course as it pertains to Executive Order 1,” said Gov. Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter in a statement to ABC News.

Youngkin’s Executive Order 1, signed in January 2022, restricts or limits “inherently divisive concepts” and “critical race theory” teaching in schools.

Youngkin had opened a tip line for people to report instances of divisive concepts and critical race theory being taught in schools.

Critics of such policies, including educators, scholars and parents have expressed concerns that the moves amount to censorship and halt discussions about race, racism and diversity in classrooms.

“The president of Loudoun County’s NAACP, Pastor Michelle Thomas, finds Youngkin being involved in a school discussion on Black history and slavery, after ordering a review of ‘AP African Studies’ classes troubling,” the local NAACP chapter said in a tweet.

Florida’s rejection of AP African American studies sparked immediate backlash.

Bryn Taylor, a graduate student at the University of Florida, told ABC News that getting rid of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts would “take us back in social progress” and leave opportunities in higher education for privileged people.

Andrew Gothard, the president of the United Faculty of Florida union, said that one of the complaints he’s heard from faculty against the state’s education restrictions is that “nobody really knows what the governor and the Office of the Governor are looking for here.”

Critical race theory, which is taught in universities and colleges, seeks to understand how racism has shaped U.S. laws.

“Students in a higher education classroom should be educated on what this is, so that then they can make their own decisions about how they feel about it,” Gothard said.

DeSantis’ Department of Education said the course was “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 on race and diversity taught “kids to hate our country or to hate each other,” according to DeSantis in a 2021 statement on the law.

DeSantis and his administration were slammed by those in favor of the course, including state Democratic legislators, students and civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who threatened to sue the state if Florida does not teach AP African American studies.

“There are many gaps in American history regarding the African American population,” one student said in a press conference about potential litigation. “The implementation of an AP African American History class could fill in those gaps.”

The College Board defended its curriculum, which includes coursework on slavery, Black revolutionaries, anticolonial movements, and diversity within the Black community.

“This course is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, in a press release.

The College Board said it consulted with more than 300 African American studies professors from more than 200 colleges across the country to build the coursework.

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