(NEW YORK)— PEN America today criticized South Carolina’s decision to eliminate college credit and statewide funding for AP African American Studies in high schools, saying the move is another example of state officials pursuing an ideological agenda in public education.  South Carolina is the third state to ban or restrict AP African American Studies, following Florida and Arkansas.

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Department of Education announced that it will no longer offer college credit for AP African American Studies courses in the state’s public schools. In a memo released to district superintendents, the department cited “significant controversy surrounding the course,” and “pending permanent legislation” as reasons for the cancellation – a reference to H 5100, a state budget bill which would renew the state’s current educational gag order that restricts curriculum about race, and H 3728, a pending educational gag order that would permanently and more severely limit discussions of race in the classroom. The decision against the AP course comes as the legislature also considers a regulation that would make it easier to ban books in the state.

“This irresponsible decision cannot be separated from a national context in which Black history is under attack,” said Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America. “Amid rising book bans and ideological meddling in the classroom, South Carolina continues to put politics before student wellbeing. It is particularly concerning that the department would discontinue the course in response to legislation that has not yet become law. In joining the sad company of Florida and Arkansas in interfering with the teaching of AP curriculum the state is undermining students’ freedoms to read and learn.”

According to the state’s memo, the AP course may still be available as an honors course if approved locally, but it would not receive state funding and would not be weighted as a college-level course on transcripts.

Following the announcement, the College Board said that they would authorize the courses for college credit on an individual district basis. 

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. Learn more at pen.org.

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