Florida Allows AP Psychology Course After Controversy Over Gender and Sexuality Topics

Florida’s education department has reversed its decision to ban the Advanced Placement Psychology course from being taught in the state’s schools, after a clash with the College Board over the inclusion of topics on gender and sexuality. The course, which is one of the most popular AP classes in Florida, will now be allowed to be taught in its entirety, as long as it is age and developmentally appropriate.

Florida Allows AP Psychology Course
Senate Education Chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.


Florida’s New Law Restricts Teaching on Gender and Sexuality

The controversy began when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law in March 2023, which prohibits public schools from providing instruction or materials that “infringe on the fundamental right of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her minor child.” The law also requires schools to notify parents of any instruction or materials that relate to sex, sexuality, or gender identity, and allow them to opt out their children from such instruction.

The law was seen by many as an attempt to restrict the teaching of LGBTQ+ issues and history in Florida’s schools, and was met with criticism from educators, students, and civil rights groups. The law also sparked confusion among school districts on how to implement it without violating the academic standards and requirements of the College Board, which oversees the AP program and administers the SAT college admissions test.

College Board Advises Against Offering AP Psychology Course

On August 3, 2023, the College Board sent a letter to Florida school districts, informing them that the state’s education department had instructed them that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity in the AP Psychology course was illegal under state law. The College Board said that removing these topics from the course would make it noncompliant with college requirements, and that schools that did so could not call the class “Advanced Placement.”

The College Board advised Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until the state reversed its decision and allowed parents and students to choose to take the full course. The College Board said that it was “sad” to learn that Florida had “effectively banned” AP Psychology in the state, and that it hoped to work with the state to resolve the issue.

The College Board’s letter came just days before the start of the new school year for many Florida students and teachers. According to the College Board, more than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology courses last year, making it one of the most popular classes in the state. AP classes are one of several ways high school students can gain college credits free of charge.

Florida Reverses Decision and Allows AP Psychology Course

On August 4, 2023, Florida’s education department changed its stance and told school officials that AP Psychology courses could be taught in their entirety, as long as they were age and developmentally appropriate. The department said that it was not discouraging districts from teaching AP Psychology, and that the course remained listed in its course catalog.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter to school superintendents on August 4, clarifying that AP Psychology could be taught in its entirety. He said that he wanted to be clear that AP Psychology was and would remain available to Florida students. He also blamed the College Board for “playing games” with Florida students and trying to stop the course from being offered.

In response to Diaz’s letter, the College Board said that the department’s stance represented revised guidance on the teaching of the course. The College Board said that it hoped that Florida teachers would be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year.

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