NewsLocal News


School board rejects AP African American Studies course in its current form

school students
Posted at 1:41 PM, Jul 02, 2024

In a 5-4 decision, the Harford County Board of Education voted against an AP African American Studies course in its current form, saying the curriculum needs to be reexamined.

The decision not to offer the course in the next school year was made in a meeting held on June 24. It had been removed from 2 prior board agendas.

The course had been offered in a pilot program at Bel Air, Aberdeen and Joppatowne High Schools this past school year.

The vote was to expand it and make it a course offered more widely expanding it to Edgewood, Harford Technical, and Havre de Grace.

90 students had enrolled for the next school year.

Board Member, Terri Kocher voted against the course saying, "We need an AP African American Course...but this is not it."

"I didn't find positive messages that weren't overwhelmed by the negative messages. So I think we're missing an opportunity to present positive messages of unity and great American contributions."

The course description says it "explores the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans through the lens of literature, arts, and humanities, political science, geography, and science."

You can view the entire curriculum from the college board here.

Board member, Carol Bruce, voted to keep the class saying, "For us to keep saying we don't want it because it's political, I think that's unfair and it's short-sighted. And it's pitting African-Americans against non-African-Americans because we want to speak up to say we want history taught."

In response to the vote, Superintendent Dr. Sean Bulson said:

“History courses have historically overlooked, underrepresented, or misrepresented the contributions and experiences of African Americans. That's the real imbalance. This course can help fill that gap and provide a more inclusive and authentic portrayal of American History. Offering courses like AP African American Studies demonstrates our commitment to providing an education that reflects the diversity of our student body and community. When we remain true to that commitment, it is unifying, not divisive. Everyone is seen, valued, and heard. When we listen to feedback from our students and their families, we know that they are eager to learn more about topics that directly relate to their own identity and heritage. This course is an opportunity for them to have that. More than 75% of the students enrolled to take the course, identify as a race other than white. I am deeply saddened that the Board voted against giving AP African American Studies regular status in Harford County Public Schools.”

Board member, Dr. Carol Mueller, voted in favor of the class. She said a majority of students enrolled were African-American and by voting this down, "We are taking away an opportunity to put them in a course that will help them to do better in college work in the future."

Lauren Paige Strauss, another board member who voted against the course, says, "I spent a lot of time reviewing this curriculum. I think there's a lot of good, solid education components but I am struggling over the divisiveness that some of this content could cause."

Dr. Paula Stanton, the supervisor for the Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency at Harford County Public Schools heard from students following the board meeting who were upset about the decision.

She held a virtual meeting Tuesday morning and about a dozen students joined to share their thoughts. Many of them were disappointed and frustrated that they no longer had the option to take the class.

She said the students felt this AP course was "a unique opportunity to go more in-depth" and learn things they never would have learned in their traditional history class.

The board members who voted against the course talked about the negative aspects of the curriculum.

The students said, "It's raw. It's the facts." They said, "We have to learn about history. The good, the bad, and the ugly" to make them better citizens and learn how to make change happen.

Dr. Stanton says she does hope to have more discussions with students about this in the future.

The next Board of Education meeting is July 15 and this topic may come up again. At this time the agenda hasn't been released.

Nearly 700 schools piloted the course in the 2023-24 academic year, representing more than 40 states and the District of Columbia and approximately 13,000 students. A total of 60 schools participated in the first year of the pilot in the 2022–2023 academic year.