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Florida Can’t Teach AP Psychology If It Censors Sexuality, College Board Says

Florida Can’t Teach AP Psychology If It Censors Sexuality, College Board Says

Ron DeSantis and a Barron's study guide for AP Psychology

The Florida Board of Education said the course could be taught if those elements were left out.

By prohibiting Advanced Placement Psychology courses from including anything on sexuality, the College Board said Florida officials effectively will deny students access to the class.

The Florida Board of Education, whose members are appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, announced yesterday the state will allow the AP Psychology course to be taught as long as no information included in the curriculum violates Florida’s controversial “don’t say gay” law. If that’s the case, the College Board, which produces AP tests and curricula, said the state can’t offer classes at all.

“The Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law,” reads a statement from the College Board. “The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.”

DeSantis last year signed a law prohibiting any classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity that wasn’t age appropriate. While officials initially insisted an outright ban on the topics would only apply to kindergarten through third-grade classes, the state Board of Education this year instituted the total prohibition through high school.

College Board officials stressed that the AP Psychology curriculum, which is one of the most popular AP offerings in Florida schools, has included instruction about gender and sexuality since the course’s launch 30 years ago.

There's a reason for that. The American Psychological Association and other leading organizations in the field say the topics are essential to instruction, and offered guidance to education organizations that dropping the topics amounts to censorship.

“To be clear, any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements. Therefore, we advise Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until Florida reverses their decision and allows parents and students to choose to take the full course,” the College Board statement reads.

“We have heard from teachers across Florida who are heartbroken that they are being forced to drop AP and instead teach alternatives that have been deemed legal because the courses exclude these topics.”

LGBTQ+ leaders said the development shows DeSantis’ obsession with culture wars as he runs for president now will interfere directly with the education of many college-track students.

“The DeSantis regime is at war with students and parents, censoring more AP curriculum and denying students the opportunity to earn college credit,” reads a statement from Equality Florida. “The administration has already stated that the AP African American Studies course ‘lacks significant educational value,’ instead preferring to falsely applaud slavery as an American jobs program.

“Now, the DeSantis Administration wants to rewrite AP Psychology curriculum to enforce their image of America, too. Governor DeSantis will undermine any student’s education, revoke any parent’s rights, and demolish any curriculum to remake Florida's schools into right wing propaganda machines in service to his political ambitions. His administration continues to use families and classrooms as pawns and do catastrophic damage to this state and its reputation.”

The College Board’s position stands in defiance in a posture not shown during the last time the group went to head with the Florida Department of Education. Earlier this year, state officials rejected the AP Black History curriculum. DeSantis himself said that was largely because the course included queer theory. “Now, who would say that’s an important part of Black history, queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids,” DeSantis said.

The College Board at the time agreed to amend its standards, but later conceded it was a mistake not to denounce the decision.

“We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda,” a College Board statement read at the time.

The organizations took an aggressive stance protecting its AP Psychology curriculum in the wake of the past debacle. It placed blame on the state for disruptions this could cause days ahead of some Florida school districts starting classes.

“The state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students. Coming just days from the start of school, it derails the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state,” the latest statement reads. “AP is recognized by thousands of colleges and universities across the United States for admissions, scholarships consideration, college credit, and advanced standing. More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year.”

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