AP Psychology can be taught in Florida high schools, say state officials – in reversal after college-credit course was pulled over lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity

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AP Psychology can be taught in Florida high schools, say state officials – in reversal after college-credit course was pulled over lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity

After confusion over whether Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology classes would be banned in Florida high schools under Governor Ron DeSantis' proh

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After confusion over whether Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology classes would be banned in Florida high schools under Governor Ron DeSantis‘ prohibition on teaching LGBT topics, it appears students there will be allowed to take the course.

Earlier this week, the nonprofit College Board advised the state’s school districts not to offer the college-level course to Florida’s high school students unless it can be taught in full.

For decades, the class had included a unit on gender and sexual orientation, which the College Board suggested would be ‘illegal’ after DeSantis recently signed into law an expanded prohibition on teaching those subjects through Grade 12.

But late on Friday, statements from both sides suggested high school students in Florida would be able to take the full course after all. 

In a letter to state superintendents, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said the state believed the psychology course could be taught ‘in its entirety.’ 

Governor Ron DeSantis' ban on teaching LGBT topics will not prevent high schools from offering AP Psychology, it now appears

Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on teaching LGBT topics will not prevent high schools from offering AP Psychology, it now appears

Students in Florida protest the law that critics dub "Don't Say Gay" which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity

Students in Florida protest the law that critics dub ‘Don’t Say Gay’ which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity

‘Today’s statement from the Florida Department of Education represents revised guidance on AP Psychology,’ the College Board told DailyMail.com in a statement.

‘While district superintendents continue to seek additional clarity from the department, we note the clear guidance that, ‘AP Psychology may be taught in its entirety,” the group added.

‘We hope now that Florida teachers will be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year,’ the statement said.

Florida’s prohibition on teaching lessons about gender and sexual orientations, which critics call the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, was initially passed in March 2022 and applied to kindergarten through third grade.

The policy sparked national debate and helped propel DeSantis into the spotlight ahead of his current campaign seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. 

In May, DeSantis signed an expanded version of the bill, banning those topics all the way through twelfth grade, with exceptions for high school if they are cleared by officials as ‘age-appropriate’.

The Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond on Saturday when asked whether the AP Psychology course material had been deemed age-appropriate.

With students preparing to return to school in less than a week in many school districts, it remained unclear whether any modifications to the course would be expected to comply with Florida’s rules.

Parents and students were left trying to figure out what to do.

Brandon Taylor Charpied said his daughter, who goes to school in a suburb of Jacksonville, had been set to take an AP psychology course but made a last-minute switch a few weeks ago after ‘rumblings’ about the rift between Florida and the College Board.

‘To be fair, we saw the writing on the wall,’ Charpied said. ‘It´s a very difficult situation for high schools to navigate right now with only days until the school year starts.’

In a letter to state superintendents, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr (above) said the state believed the psychology course could be taught 'in its entirety'

In a letter to state superintendents, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr (above) said the state believed the psychology course could be taught ‘in its entirety’

Ron DeSantis is pictured in March 2022, signing into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, known as 'Don't Say Gay', which forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten-third grade. It was expanded this year for all students

Ron DeSantis is pictured in March 2022, signing into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, known as ‘Don’t Say Gay’, which forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten-third grade. It was expanded this year for all students

In Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, the Leon County school district’s superintendent met with high school teachers and principals to decide what to do about the roughly 300 students who had already registered for the course this year – and who bank on AP classes to earn college credits. 

In Orlando, Orange County Public Schools sent a message to parents who have children who were registered for AP Psychology to say they were working to come up with other options.

Because the College Board is standing by its decades-old psychology curriculum, school districts in the rest of the country are not being affected – unlike when it made changes to the AP African American studies curriculum.

In April, the College Board watered down that course’s curriculum on slavery reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement in response to a separate Florida law – and a nationwide backlash ensued 

In initial its statement Thursday, the College Board said DeSantis’ administration ‘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.’

Florida’s Department of Education rejected the assertion that it had banned the course. The statement Friday from Diaz said the AP course can be taught ‘in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate.’

Under an expanded Florida law, lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity are not allowed unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take. 

In the spring the state asked the College Board and other providers of college-level courses to review their offerings for potential violations.

The College Board refused to modify the psychology course to comply with Florida´s new legislation. 

The course asks students to describe how sex and gender influence a person´s development – topics that have been part of the curriculum since it launched 30 years ago.

Earlier this week, it appeared AP Psychology courses would be pulled from Florida schools

Earlier this week, it appeared AP Psychology courses would be pulled from Florida schools

In standing firm against pressure from Florida officials, the College Board, which administers the SAT and AP exams, has acknowledged missteps in the way it handled the African American studies curriculum.

‘We have learned from our mistakes in the recent rollout of AP African American Studies and know that we must be clear from the outset where we stand,’ the non-profit said in June.

Literacy and free-speech experts lauded the College Board’s new approach.

‘These concessions are not a strategy that´s working,’ said Kasey Meehan, the Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of literature and human rights. 

‘It´s not like there´s some common middle ground and then we´ve resolved it and moved on.’

Meehan said that while other states may not have gone as far as Florida in asking for course revisions, legislation across the country is having a chilling effect on teachers at all grade levels. 

Even if concepts are not explicitly banned, many educators are left in the dark about what they may get in trouble for teaching in the classroom, she said.

‘We have heard that it´s hard to teach about everything from the Civil War to Harvey Milk, who is the first openly gay elected official in California,’ Meehan said. ‘There´s just an increased culture of fear and intimidation that´s playing out.’

The American Psychological Association said Florida’s new policy means students will receive an incomplete education.

‘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,’ said Arthur Evans Jr, CEO of the association.

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