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‘Enormous disservice’: Florida bans AP Psychology for chapter on gender and sexual orientation

Rebecca Barnabi
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A chapter of study has caused the state of Florida to ban AP Psychology from high school classrooms.

USA Today reported Friday that the College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement program, said Florida superintendents were advised by the state to drop AP Psychology classes unless topics related to gender and sexuality were excluded.

AP classes give high school students a jump start on college courses. Yet, the change would mean the courses would not earn students college credit, according to the College Board. The Board advised Florida high schools not to offer the classes until the decision is reversed by the state or the AP Psychology course would be in violation of Florida state law and 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.”

The College Board said in June it will not alter the course to comply with Florida law. A conference call last Thursday morning brought the news to Florida school superintendents about the state education department’s decision, days before the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Approximately 30,000 students were enrolled in the course for this fall.

The AP Psychology curriculum has included gender and sexual orientation for 30 years. However, last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican running for president in 2024, signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act. The legislation prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade. In the spring, the law was extended to 12th grade.

Unit 6.7 in AP Psychology discusses gender and sexuality, including definitions of gender, sexuality, gender roles and stereotypes and their socialization factors.

The largest LGBTQ+ group in the United States, The Human Rights Campaign, blasted the state’s decision, and called it 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 is also disappointed and called the exclusion 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.”

The clash over AP Psych is not the first between the Sunshine State and the College Board. In the spring, Florida said no to the Board’s AP African American Studies class because it violated state law with inclusion of topics like Black Lives Matter, Black feminism and reparations. The state’s “Stop WOKE Act” limits discussion of race in schools, colleges and workplaces. Teaching which could make students feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin is prohibited.

USA Today reported that teachers across Florida are “heartbroken” by the decision because they will now have to drop AP and teach alternatives deemed legal. The state education department released a statement blaming the decision on the College Board refusing to comply with Florida law and referred to the Board as “playing games” with Florida students.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.