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Will Florida Teachers Still Be Punished for Teaching AP Psychology?

Will Florida Teachers Still Be Punished for Teaching AP Psychology?

<p>Will Florida Teachers Still Be Punished for Teaching AP Psychology?</p>

Advocacy groups demand assurances faculty won’t face retribution because of Florida’s "don’t say gay" law.

Days after Florida officials seemingly backed off demands to censor the AP Psychology curriculum, confusion remains over what can be taught.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz on Friday sent a letter to school districts stating, “AP Psychology can be taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate.” The position reversed a decision by the Florida Board of Education that contents about sexuality and gender identity must be censored, which prompted the College Board to say Florida could not offer an abridged class at all.

The new direction from Diaz appears to have satisfied the College Board, but school districts remain uncertain, especially because Diaz’s direction still uses language that appears in Florida’s widely derided “don’t say gay” law. DeSantis initially insisted the controversial law, when he first signed that law in 2022, would only bar instruction on gender and sexuality through 3rd grade. But the Florida Board of Education, made up of DeSantis’ appointees, in April extended the prohibition through high school.

The Duval County School District still moved ahead with plans to drop the course from its curriculum, days ahead of the start of school in the Jacksonville area.

“If AP Psychology is taught in its entirety, which is required for students to sit for the exam, it could place teachers and school leaders in uncertain waters with potential charges under the law,” district officials wrote in an email to the CBS affiliate in Jacksonville.

Now teachers, parents, and advocacy groups are urging DeSantis’s administration to clarify that teachers won’t be punished if they teach AP Psychology in its entirety.

The Florida PTA, the largest parent association in the state, said if parents have no objection to the AP Psychology curriculum, the course should remain available. The group sent a letter to Diaz demanding he clarify the state's position.

“We urge you to make the definition of ‘appropriate’ a matter of informed parental discretion, and to state this explicitly,” wrote Florida PTA President Carolyn Nelson-Goedert.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, wants a guarantee faculty won’t face retribution later if they teach curriculum items on sexual orientation.

“We call on you to clearly and unambiguously state that nothing in AP Psychology course violated Florida statutes of Florida State Board of Education rule,” FEA President Andrew Spar wrote in a letter to Diaz.

For its part, College Board officials say Diaz’s letter addresses the concerns the organization held when it first announced Florida could not offer a censored version of the course.

“Friday’s statement from the Florida Department of Education represents revised guidance on AP Psychology. While district superintendents continue to seek additional clarity from the department, we note the clear guidance that, ‘AP Psychology may be taught in its entirety,’” reads an email from College Board.

“We hope now that Florida teachers will be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year.

Officials at Equality Florida, the state’s most prominent LGBTQ+ advocacy group, encouraged districts to offer to the unabridged version of AP Psychology. But the group also said the state should offer reassurance to faculty that doing so won’t put their own careers at risk.

“We applaud the school districts that have held strong in the fight against the censorship of the Don’t Say LGBTQ law and rule and encourage all education leaders to take the Commissioner at his word,” said Equality Florida senior political director Joe Saunders. “Districts and teachers should teach AP Psychology in its entirety -- including the LGBTQ-inclusive content. Additionally, we call on the Department of Education to immediately issue clarifying guidance that affirms AP Psychology’s alignment with state standards and protects AP Psychology teachers from political attacks for teaching the course in its entirety."

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