LAKELAND, Fla. — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump warned a lawsuit could be coming after the state rejected the College Board's proposal to add an AP African American Studies course to the Florida curriculum.
Crump stood alongside three AP students who will serve as plaintiffs in the case along with several politicians.
In response, Florida Department of Education Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi said, "this threat is nothing more than a meritless publicity stunt."
A Jan. 12 letter from Florida’s Office of Articulation said, “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on this stance during an earlier news conference in which he called the proposed course "indoctrination, not education."
At the same time, civil rights leaders spoke in Tallahassee, a group of about 20 community leaders gathered in Lakeland to show solidarity with Wednesday's message in Tallahassee.
Terry Coney, president of the Lakeland NAACP, was among the speakers calling out DeSantis for rejecting the course.
"We're here to let the governor know that we want African American history, we want African American studies entwined throughout American history curriculum throughout the state of Florida," Coney said.
The state said if parts of the course are revised, it will revisit offering the course to high school students.
"The Florida Department of Education should have never denied the program," Coney said. "They should have accepted it an maybe ask them can you make and adjustment here or make an adjustment there."
Other speakers reminded parents and community members of the importance of teaching African American history at home and calling out inequality when you see it.
"We don't have a Black issue. We don't have white issues, we don't have a Latino issue. We have a community issue. We have a national issue," William Boss said, who is a member of the Lakeland NAACP.
It wasn't just the words said on Wednesday meant to have an impact. The very site leaders picked to hold their news conference was once one of only six African American high schools in the state of Florida.
"It was Washington Park High School. In 1928, it opened," Coney said.
Nearly a century later, leaders are still pushing for progress.
"Our history is so profound, so rich, don't you want your babies to know what our ancestors did," Boss said.