Florida 'effectively bans' AP Psychology over gender, sexuality unit – USA TODAY

Florida superintendents have been advised by the state to drop their Advanced Placement Psychology classes unless they exclude any topics related to gender or sexuality, according to The College Board, which oversees the AP program.
Such a shift would mean the courses couldn’t be called Advanced Placement, however, or used by students to earn college credit, the College Board said. And the organization is advising Florida districts not to offer the classes until the state reverses its decision, saying any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either state law or college requirements.
“We are sad to have learned that today 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,” the College Board said. “The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.”
In June, the College Board said it would not alter the popular AP Psychology class after the state asked the organization to review all AP courses to see whether they “need modification to ensure compliance” with a Florida law and state Board of Education rule targeting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Florida’s school superintendents learned of the state education department’s decision in a conference call Thursday morning. The news means school districts may have to quickly rejigger many students’ schedules just days before the start of a new school year. This fall, about 30,000 students were enrolled to take the course statewide, the College Board said.
“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,” said the nonprofit, which also administers the SAT.
Mark Rendell, the superintendent of Brevard County schools on Florida’s east coast, called the situation “problematic” in an email to school board members obtained by the USA TODAY Network − Florida.
“Many of our students are enrolled in this course with the hopes of earning college credit,” he wrote. “Many are also seeking an AP Capstone designation, or AP Scholar designation, and would need this course to meet those goals.”
Rendell wrote that the district would look at other options and work with high schools, students and parents to determine “which path we take moving forward.”
The College Board isn’t having it:Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to scrub AP classes of LGBTQ subjects.
The state education agency in a statement blamed the last-minute change on the College Board’s refusal to comply with Florida law, saying the organization was forcing school districts to prevent students from taking the class.
“The Department didn’t ‘ban’ the course,” Deputy Director of Communications Cassie Palelis wrote. The class is still listed in Florida’s Course Code Directory for the 2023-2024 year.
“We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly,” she said. “The other advanced course providers (including the International Baccalaureate program) had no issue providing the college credit psychology course.”
In the state capital, Tallahassee, a spokesperson for Leon County Schools said the district had planned to offer the class at all six of its high schools this fall, and as of Thursday, 381 students were set to take the course.
Walt Haber, a rising senior at Leon High School, had signed up to take AP Psychology during the new school year. He has already taken most of the AP classes at his high school, so the psychology course was one of his few remaining AP options.
His senior year starts in a week.
“This is very frustrating,” said Haber, 18. “I was excited to take this class, and I am disappointed in the state’s inability to conduce my education.”
More than 28,000 Florida students at 562 schools in Florida took AP Psychology last school year, the College Board said. Noah Summerlin, a rising senior at Leon High School, was one of them.
“As a student who completed the AP Psychology course last year and personally benefited from the knowledge it imparted, I’m beyond pissed off,” he said.
“High school students, by and large, are capable of higher thought and rational decision-making,” he added. “By excluding the fields of psychology which they deem ‘inappropriate,’ (Gov.) Ron DeSantis and other Republicans place their personal beliefs above the rights of public school students across Florida to a full and free education.”
There may be other options for students who want to take a college-level psychology class in high school, but those courses were met with criticism from The College Board. The International Baccalaureate and Cambridge AICE program also offer courses in psychology. Although the College Board said both organizations behind those courses chose to comply with Florida’s request to exclude gender and sexuality from their college-level classes in the topic, the organizations said that is incorrect.
Cambridge said it has not changed its course but instead determined that nothing in its materials clash with Florida law. And in a statement to USA TODAY, International Baccalaureate said though it reviewed its course at the request of the Florida DOE, “on completion of this review, due to the inherent flexibility of our teaching model, changes to any IB programs were deemed unnecessary.”
Gender and sexual orientation have been a part of the AP Psychology curriculum for the past 30 years, according to The College Board.
Last year, DeSantis, who is running to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024, signed into law a measure officially called the Parental Rights in Education act but has been derided by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law outlawed instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. This spring, the law was expanded this year to 12th grade.
The portion of AP Psychology in question is unit 6.7, which discusses gender and sexuality and includes the definitions of gender, sexuality, gender roles and stereotypes and their socialization factors.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights group, blasted the state’s decision, calling the move a “disturbing” attempt to rewrite history.
“College Board’s AP Psychology curriculum is science-driven and endorsed by both educators and experts,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “Educational systems that reject the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people from their psychology courses are failing in their commitment to students.”
The American Psychological Association also expressed disappointment, calling the loss of course in Florida an “enormous disservice” to students.
“Requiring what is effectively censored educational material does an enormous disservice to students across Florida, who will receive an incomplete picture of the psychological research into human development,” APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. said. “An Advanced Placement course that ignores the decades of science studying sexual orientation and gender identity would deprive students of knowledge they will need to succeed in their studies, in high school and beyond.”
AP African American Studies is in demandbut it’s still banned in Florida
It’s not the only College Board class that has been targeted by DeSantis’ administration. This spring, Florida rejected the College Board’s AP African American Studies class, saying it violated state law because of topics such as Black Lives Matter, Black feminism and reparations.
Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” restricts how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces and prohibits any teaching that could make students feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin.
The AP class still has not been approved to be taught in Florida.
Contributing: Finch Walker, Florida Today, and Ellie Houghton
Ana Goñi-Lessan is the State Watchdog Reporter for USA TODAY – Florida and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @goni_lessan. 

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