TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Education has banned AP Psychology courses throughout the state due to sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum concerns, the College Board said in a statement Thursday.
This is one of the stipulations in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' newest legislation, the Parental Rights in Education bill, which was recently expanded to outlaw this instruction in all elementary, middle, and high schools in the state.
The course features a framework that asks students to "describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development," according to the College Board. This has been a part of the curriculum for 30 years.
"The state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students," the College Board 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."
Florida Department of Education to College Board: ‘Stop playing games’
The Florida Department of Education said it's encouraging the College Board to "stop playing games" with students as it "attempts to force school districts to prevent students" from taking the course.
"The Department didn’t ‘ban’ the course," a spokesperson said in a statement to FOX 35 News. "The course remains listed in Florida’s Course Code Directory for the 2023-24 school 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.
"The other advanced course providers (including the International Baccalaureate program) had no issue providing the college credit psychology course."
Dr. Cade Resnick, a former AP Psychology teacher, called the actions by the state a political move, and one in which it's going to affect students.
"When you tell children, 'You know what, you can ignore this today,' what's going to happen when those children do go to find out about it later?" he asked. "When parents say, 'Well, we should have a right to teach them what we want to teach them when we want to teach them.' Absolutely, then those students don't take the course.
"I think it's unfortunate the College Board refuses to abide by Florida law as the other two pre-college national education organizations do," said State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. "I think it's just another example of some outside group thinking they can dictate to Florida their woke policies."
College Board previously said it wouldn't make changes to any AP courses
The College Board said back in June that it wouldn't make changes to its AP courses to remove these topics from the curriculum following a plea from the state to "audit and potentially modify" any course content.
The Board released a statement below:
"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 state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.
"The AP course asks students to "describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development." This element of the framework is not new: gender and sexual orientation have been part of AP Psychology since the course launched 30 years ago.
"As we shared in June, we cannot modify AP Psychology in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness. Our policy remains unchanged. Any course that censors required course content cannot be labeled "AP" or "Advanced Placement," and the "AP Psychology" designation cannot be utilized on student transcripts.
"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.
"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.
"The American Psychological Association recently reaffirmed that any course that excludes these topics would violate their guidelines and should not be considered for college credit. The APA has given this direct guidance to organizations that have agreed to this censorship.
"Similarly, American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell has said: "It strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity."
"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. 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.
"The AP Program will do all we can do to support schools in their plans for responding to this late change."
Is AP Psychology really ‘banned’?
School districts in Florida can still teach AP Psychology if they wish, but the course must omit any mention of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. That said, it might not count for college credit.
Despite this, the College Board said any modifications to AP Psychology that censor required course content cannot be labeled "AP" or "Advanced Placement,' and the "AP Psychology" moniker cannot be used on school transcripts, according to a press release.
"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," the College Board added.
The American Psychological Association also said any course that excludes the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation would violate their guidelines, and they should not be considered for college credit.
"It strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity," American Council of Education President Ted Mitchell said in a statement.
Nearly 30,000 students in Florida took AP Psychology in the most recent school year, the College Board said.
"The AP Program will do all we can do to support schools in their plans for responding to this late change," the statement said.
No additional details about how this change will be implemented in the 2023-24 school year have been released as of Thursday.
How Central Florida school districts will adapt to no AP Psychology class
FOX 35 News reached out to several school districts in Florida, who shared their plans for the upcoming school year when it comes to the AP Psychology ban:
- Marion County: "I’m sure my district (Marion County) will be like others and wait for guidance and direction from the Florida Department of Education regarding this topic. Given the timing, I have no updated information I can offer right now," a spokesperson said.
- Seminole County: "In order to comply with Florida Law and College Board requirements, SCPS has developed a plan that allows students to pursue their interest in psychology, while still having the opportunity to potentially earn college credit. Student schedules will reflect the replacement of AP Psychology with AP Seminar. This AP Seminar class will emphasize the study of psychology."
- Volusia County: "Volusia County Schools will wait for guidance from the Florida Department of Education regarding any changes to our AP Psychology offerings," a spokesperson said.
- Orange County: "AP Psychology is no longer a potential course option for Florida students to receive college credit," according to a spokesperson.
- Seminole County: AP Psychology will be replaced with an AP Seminar class, which gives students the opportunity to still earn college credit, a spokesperson said.
American Federation of Teachers President: ‘It’s an unconscionable but far-from-surprising move’
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement about the AP Psychology ban in Florida:
"With every passing day, Florida is going out of its way to limit, rather than expand, the educational opportunities available for its young people. It seems nothing can stop the slippery slope of government censorship and bans, even against a long-running and widely respected AP course that has helped the next generation pursue their dreams. No state government should ever be engaged in the un-American practice of censoring the science that is taught to our students.
"A college-level course on psychology that excises a discussion of gender and sexual orientation would be incomplete, inaccurate and unscientific. As the American Psychological Association has noted, ‘Excluding discussion of this content not only deprives students of an understanding of the breadth of psychological science, it prevents them from understanding human development and identity.’
"Make no mistake—this noxious maneuver disadvantages students as they prepare for college and forces parents to spend thousands of dollars they could have saved if their kids had access to age-appropriate college coursework in high school. It also has a significant impact on colleges and college-bound scholars, as it is currently assumed that this introductory content has already been taught.
"Sadly, it’s all part of the DeSantis playbook of eroding rights, censoring those he disagrees with and undermining access to knowledge. Just this year, countless educators have been forced to remove or cover up their classroom libraries under threat of sanctions and jail, countless students have lost out because the governor ended AP African American studies, and now this assault on AP psychology. It’s an unconscionable but far-from-surprising move from an extremist and increasingly unpopular leader who is fast becoming both a national pariah and a global embarrassment."