Head scratcher? Florida blocks AP Psychology over LGBTQ+ content

'Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements,' College Board warns.

The College Board is advising Florida public schools not to offer AP Psychology due to a state law that prohibits teaching about LGBTQ+ issues—which have been part of the college-level course for decades. The College Board’s warning came Thursday after Florida education officials told districts that AP Psychology can only be taught if content covering sexual orientation and gender identity is excluded.

“The AP course asks students to ‘describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development,'” the College Board said in a statement. “Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements.”

A recently passed state law makes it illegal for teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity, which have been covered in the course since it was created 30 years ago. Without those topics, the course would no longer meet standards for Advanced Placement, college credit or career readiness, the College Board explained.

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The American Psychological Association added that a course that omits sexual orientation and gender identity would violate its guidelines and shouldn’t bear college credit. More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology during the 2022-23 school year, the College Board pointed out.

“The state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students,” the organization said. “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.”

In response, Florida has accused the College Board of “attempting to force school districts to prevent students from taking AP Psychology.” Other advanced course providers, such as the International Baccalaureate program, are continuing to attach college credit to psychology courses, Cassie Palelis, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education, told NBC News.

“The Department didn’t ‘ban’ the course. The course remains listed in Florida’s Course Code Directory for the 2023-24 school year,” Palelis said in an email to NBC News. “We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly.”

AP Psychology is not the only course in the crosshairs

Advanced Placement has been a target of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, which earlier this year—right around Martin Luther King Day, in fact—barred schools from offering AP African-American Studies. Florida Department of Education officials told the College Board in January that it had rejected AP African-American Studies because it “lacks educational value,” the National Review reported at the time. DeSantis’ administration also believes the course veers into critical race theory in violation of Florida’s controversial Stop WOKE Act, according to the National Review.

But that wasn’t the administration’s final move to reshape how African American history is taught beyond the most advanced high school courses. New African American history standards approved by the state’s board of education in July ask students to consider that slavery may have been beneficial because the people enslaved learned vocational skills.

The new curriculum will also offer high school students a new perspective on the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, in which 30 Black Floridians were killed while trying to vote. Teachers must also cover “acts of violence perpetrated by African Americans,” according to the standards.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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