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Civil rights attorney Ben Crump threatens legal action over banning of AP African American studies course

'We are here to give notice to Gov. [Ron] DeSantis,' Crump says
Posted at 8:02 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 20:02:24-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A famed civil rights attorney has threatened to sue the governor if the state bans teaching a controversial AP course on African American studies. At a rally and press conference inside the state capitol, Ben Crump announced the pending legal action on Wednesday.

"We are here to give notice to Gov. [Ron] DeSantis," Crump told the large rotunda crowd.

He said his team and three AP student plaintiffs would sue in federal court over First Amendment concerns if the lesson remains blocked.

"College courses cannot be censored," Crump said. "We think AP courses are an extension of college courses."

State officials allege the course has at least six violations of Florida's Stop WOKE Act. It's a new law forbidding teaching concepts like critical race theory and white privilege. Students involved in the possible litigation, however, worry Florida is trying to whitewash Black history.

"I can't believe that this is 2023, and America is talking about censoring education," Elijah Edwards, one of the potential plaintiffs, said. "This is America, not a communist nation."

The litigation isn't a guarantee. If the state comes to an agreement and permits the course, nothing will happen. That seems possible as AP course creators at College Board said Tuesday the lesson is only a "pilot," and its "official framework" is coming Feb. 1.

"If they're able to reconcile their competing interests to put this into the classrooms in Florida, I don't have anything to sue over," Crump's co-counsel, Craig Whisenhunt, said.

GOP legal experts note that the state already requires teaching African American history. Attorney Trudy Smith believed the governor and state education department are on a solid legal footing. Smith called the legal threat premature.

"It's almost like putting the cart before the horse," Smith said. "It's advocating to punish something that we don't even know it's going to be an offense in the future."

Florida's Department of Education went further in its short statement Wednesday afternoon.

"This threat is nothing more than a meritless publicity stunt," Florida Department of Education Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi said.