(NEW YORK)— PEN America today sharply criticized the Arkansas Department of Education’s decision to withdraw a new advanced placement African American Studies course as “reckless and ideologically-motivated.”

The department told reporters Monday that the course would not be available for course credit, and that schools that offered it risked violating a new educational gag order. The move, which was shared with teachers just days before the beginning of the school year, comes after Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed both an executive order and legislation banning “critical race theory” in K-12 schools. AP African American Studies, which was piloted last year and is available nationwide beginning this school year, was similarly blocked in Florida. 

PEN America’s  Freedom to Learn program director Jeremy C. Young said: “In its zeal to copy Florida’s destructive policies, Arkansas has demonstrated that attacks on intellectual freedom in schools are a truly national crisis. With this action, Arkansas is now using its K-12 focused educational gag order to limit students’ access to early college credit. In restricting access to this course just days before school is meant to begin, the state is undermining students’ long-term educational plans for political gain. This reckless and ideologically-motivated directive robs Arkansas students of their freedom to learn, and it threatens public schools’ ability to cultivate a robust, well-informed citizenry.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057