Education

Virginia Governor Asks Department of Education to Review AP African American Studies Course

Fairfax County Public Schools plans to offer the course in some high schools next school year

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A Fairfax County School Board member is pushing back after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked the state Department of Education to review a new Advanced Placement African American studies course to see if it violates his ban on inherently divisive concepts in schools.

"It's very suspicious, in my opinion, and certainly follows a pattern that is disturbing," School Board member Laura Jane Cohen said.

Youngkin appointees on the state Board of Education previously were criticized for whitewashing history while revising history standards of learning.

Now, the department will decide whether the African American studies course violates Youngkin's ban on critical race theory.

The course was developed by the College Board, a nonprofit that develops all Advance Placement courses and oversees the SAT.

Virginia is one of four states, all lead by Republican governors, reviewing the course to see if it violates laws that restrict teaching race.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the course, which Loyola University Maryland professor Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead sees as another attempt to exclude Black history.

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“This narrative that he's pushing that it's going to have students be confused, we're making the argument that to get rid of the confusion, deeply engage with the questions," she said.

That's what Fairfax County is moving forward with regardless. Eight high schools have expressed interest in offering the course in the fall, and Cohen and other board members have written a letter to Youngkin calling the review an "alarming pattern of disregard for the academic needs of the commonwealth's students."

“I haven't heard a singling out of any of the other new APs,” Cohen said. “This is certainly not the only new AP that's going to be offered in the commonwealth."

Youngkin's appointed state superintendent said the review is a standard procedure for all new AP courses but hasn't yet determined if the course would violate Youngkin's ban on inherently divisive topics.

Two Black Fairfax County school board members did not sign the letter that was sent to the governor, saying they didn't think it went far enough in calling out the governor for what they call actions reminiscent of racist practices like Jim Crow laws.

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