Arkansas Schools Will Teach AP African American Studies, Defying GOP Law

Educators will teach the course despite the fact that the law also weakens rules protecting them against unjust dismissals.

By Julia Conley. Published 8-17-2023 by Common Dreams

Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaking with attendees at the 2019 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Despite a threat this week by the Arkansas Department of Education that it would not allow students to receive credit for Advanced Placement African American Studies, every public high school in Arkansas that previously offered the course announced that it will remain on their schedules for the coming school year.

The Arkansas Education Association, which represents unionized teachers across the state, applauded the Little Rock School District’s decision on Wednesday to continue offering the AP course in defiance of Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ signature law banning so-called “indoctrination” in public schools.

April Reisma, president of the union, told The New York Times that the school district’s decision was “bold” considering the law, called the Arkansas LEARNS Act, also repealed decades-old laws that protected teachers from being dismissed without notice.

Teachers who will offer the class “are very scared,” Reisma told the Times. “They can be let go at any moment for any reason.”

Earlier this week, the state Education Department said if schools proceed with AP African American studies, the course would not count as credit toward graduation, and said it will not provide students with assistance if they can’t afford the $98 fee to take the final test.

In a letter to students and parents on Wednesday the Little Rock School District (LRSD) said the class “will be weighted the same as all other AP courses” and that the district will cover the cost of taking the exam.

“Our educators are committed to providing engaging and thought-provoking lessons that encourage critical thinking, empathy, and a deep appreciation for cultural diversity,” said the district.

In addition to Little Rock Central High School—the first in the nation to be racially integrated in 1957, over the objections of racist white people—high schools in Jonesboro, Jacksonville, and North Little Rock also said they will offer the course.

Huckabee Sanders’ move banning the teaching of material that “would indoctrinate students with ideologies” followed a similar law in Florida. In July, a federal judge blocked another law passed by Arkansas’ Republican Legislature which criminalized librarians who distributed materials that were deemed “harmful to minors.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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