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(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — South Carolina’s Department of Education has decided to eliminate Advanced Placement African American Studies in its high schools, saying districts can choose to offer it instead as a locally approved honors course without college credit.

The move has been criticized by free speech and civil rights groups including the NAACP and ACLU South Carolina.

“All students deserve access to a high-quality, inclusive, and accurate education with curricula and school instruction that reflects the experiences and perspectives of allcommunities,” read a letter to the state superintendent from several organizations including the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the Charleston Jewish Federation and others.

South Carolina is the third state to restrict the AP class, following in the footsteps of Arkansas and Florida. The move was announced in a June 4 memo to superintendents and school leaders. The state Department of Education also decided to drop AP Precalculus for the upcoming school year as well.

According to the College Board, which creates AP classes, the African American Studies class is an interdisciplinary course that “examines the diversity of African American experiences through direct encounters with rich and varied sources.”

South Carolina officials said that recent classroom content restrictions being pursued by the state lawmakers have caused “significant controversy” over the course. The memo appears to refer to a bill that would restrict topics concerning race, gender, sexual orientation and more in the classroom.

Another bill being considered in South Carolina could create a state level test to determine whether some materials are “age-appropriate, educationally suitable materials” — which critics say could lead to an increase in book banning efforts by politicized groups.

A College Board spokesperson told ABC News the organization supports districts that choose to teach the course; however, “we regret that students and educators won’t receive the full benefits provided by the state as with other AP courses.”

The spokesperson said it will authorize African American Studies classes as an AP course in South Carolina “if those courses meet college-level standards as verified by the AP program’s standard process,” which could then be marked as Advanced Placement on student transcripts to colleges and universities.

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