Following a decision by the Florida Department of Education, the College Board announced Thursday that the state had "effectively banned" instruction of AP Psychology over content that includes discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
What You Need To Know
- The College Board announced Thursday that the state of Florida had "effectively banned" its AP Psychology course from state schools
- The Board said in a statement that Florida officials had said the course could only be taught if coursework about sexual orientation and gender identity were removed
- Saying that it could not remove the material, and calling the state's demands "censorship," the College Board said any course that lacked the material could not be called "AP" on student transcripts
According to a release from the not-for-profit organization — which oversees the Advanced Placement Program, the SAT and BigFuture — the College Board said the FDOE informed them that "districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics."
The move comes in the wake of changes to state law that disallow instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. House Bill 1557, the "Parental Rights in Education" bill — dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by opponents — initially only applied to students in kindergarten through third grade. It was later expanded, though, to encompass grades K-12.
The law is what initiated an ongoing conflict between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney, after the company announced it would work to have the law struck down or repealed.
AP Psychology coursework
Pointing out that instruction on gender and sexual orientation have been a part of the AP Psychology curriculum since it launched 30 years ago, the College Board said "this element of the framework is not new."
In a June statement, the College Board addressed the situation, saying it "will not modify our courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics."
"Doing so would break the fundamental promise of AP: colleges wouldn't broadly accept that course for credit and that course wouldn't prepare students for careers in the discipline," the statement continued.
In it's statement Thursday, the College Board said it had 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 Board said more than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year, making it one of the most popular advanced placement courses in the state.
Any course that does not include the content on sexual orientation and gender identity can't be labeled AP, the College Board said.
"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," it said in the statement. "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."
Calling the move to ban instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity "censorship," the College Board pointed out that 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 state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students," the statement continued. "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 ... The AP Program will do all we can do to support schools in their plans for responding to this late change."
Previous conflict with the College Board
Thursday's announcement is not the first time the College Board and DeSantis have butted heads.
The organization and the governor had a back-and-forth about a proposed AP African American Studies course that had just finished a pilot program, which DeSantis decried as "indoctrination" while calling for it to be blocked from implementation in Florida schools.
“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value," Florida education officials said in a letter to the College Board in January.
DeSantis has been vocal about barring education on topics that he believes violate state law.
“The issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida," he said during a press conference earlier this year. "We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do."
In a Feb. 8 response, the College Board argued that students should be educated using facts and that all topics in the course "have substantial educational value."
"We believe every student should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the facts and evidence of the African American experience, regardless of where those students live. This course has a great deal to offer to students from every background, and it is particularly resonant for African American students. Florida has a strong track record of providing diverse students with access to AP courses: 29% of Black students in Florida’s class of 2021 took an AP course while in high school — the third highest rate in the country."