In an unprecedented move, the Florida Department of Education has directed school superintendents across the state to remove topics related to gender or sexuality from their Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology classes or cease offering the courses altogether.
The College Board, which oversees the AP programme, revealed on Thursday that such a modification would mean that the courses couldn’t be labeled as AP and would not be eligible for students to earn college credit. About 30,000 students were enrolled to take the course statewide this fall, leaving school districts scrambling to adjust students’ schedules just days before the start of a new school year.
“We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state,” the College Board said in a statement.
In June, the College Board declined to modify the popular AP Psychology class after Florida requested a review to ensure compliance with a state law targeting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. The College Board is now advising Florida districts not to offer the class until the state reverses its decision.
Reaction and backlash
The state’s directive has sparked an outcry from teachers, students, and civil rights groups.
Walt Haber, a rising senior at Leon High School in Tallahassee, expressed his frustration: “I was excited to take this class, and I am disappointed in the state’s inability to conduct my education.”
The Human Rights Campaign called the move “disturbing,” and the American Psychological Association labeled it an “enormous disservice” to students.
The legal landscape
The decision is rooted in a law signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, known as the Parental Rights in Education act but criticised as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law originally outlawed instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, but was expanded this year to include 12th grade.
The state education agency, however, denies banning the course and blames the College Board for refusing to comply with Florida law.
“We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course,” said Deputy Director of Communications Cassie Palelis.
This is not the first clash between the Florida state government and the College Board. Florida previously alleged that the AP African American Studies class violated state law because of topics like Black Lives Matter, Black feminism, and reparations. The state’s “Stop WOKE Act” further restricts how race is discussed in educational and workplace settings.
As the new school year approaches, the full impact of these decisions remains to be seen. However, the disagreement underscores the broader national debate on what topics are considered appropriate for educational curricula. With tensions running high, the intersection of education, politics, and individual rights is likely to remain a contentious issue in Florida and beyond.