ORLANDO, Fla. — In a striking move by the College Board, Florida schools have been told that because it will not alter the curriculum to remove instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, as required by Florida law, they will not be able to offer AP Psychology classes.

"To be clear, any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements," the College Board statement said. "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."

What You Need To Know

  • Instruction on sexual orientation is banned in grades K-12 under Florida's Parental Rights in Education law

  • According to the College Board, AP Psychology requires that students "describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development"

  • The College Board says instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to college-level psychology courses and it will not alter coursework to follow Florida's laws

  • Board officials advised districts not to offer the course until parents and students are allowed "to take the full course"

In an email from Orange County Public Schools Thursday evening, parents were told that the district will no longer be offering the course.

"You are receiving this email because you have a child registered for Advanced Placement Psychology. As you may have seen in the news today, the Florida Department of Education has determined that under Florida Administrative Code select content cannot be taught in Florida classrooms," the email said. "The College Board AP Psychology course contains such content.

"College Board requires educators to teach the entire curriculum for an AP course for college credit consideration therefore AP Psychology is no longer a potential course option for Florida students to receive college credit."

Similarly, Lake County school officials announced the same. As an alternative, officials said the district will offer college-level psychology courses through its AICE and IB programs, both of which they say will give students the same college credit they would have earned through AP Psychology.

The American Psychological Association, though, has warned that any psychology class that does not include instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity will likely not be eligible for college credit.

In a Wednesday letter to Cambridge/AICE — a service that several Florida districts have said they will transition to for college-level psychology courses — the APA urged the organization not to alter its curriculum to remove information about sexual orientation and gender identity because "an advanced psychology course cannot exclude components that are essential."

"To alter the way the Cambridge/AICE psychology course is taught by prohibiting the discussion of the topics of sexual orientation and gender diversity the normal course of inquiry would irreparably alter the course outcome for students," the APA said in the letter. "Further, such changes will likely result in colleges and universities not offering credit to students who take a course that has been altered to remove essential content."

Options for students

Florida education officials say students also have the option of doing an independent study of AP Psychology on their own, and then taking the exam — or they can choose a different AP course altogether.

In Seminole County, student schedules will reflect the replacement of AP Psychology with AP Seminar with a focus in psychology, a district spokesperson said. Students will then take the AP Seminar exam, and upon achieving a passing score, they may earn college credit. 

In Marion County, a district spokesperson said about 300 students in two public high schools can take an alternative psychology class this year for college credit. Specifics on the alternative class were not disclosed.

Osceola school district officials said they have not yet made a decision on how they’re moving forward.

According to the College Board, gender and sexual orientation have been a part of AP Psychology for 30 years. The organization says it will not budge on altering the coursework.

Statewide, school districts made announcements to follow suit. According to a release, Pinellas County Schools will be offering Cambridge/AICE instead of AP Psychology this school year. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times reports Hillsborough County has not made a decision on what's next for their own students.

According to a report by the New York Times, the Florida Department of Education has fired back at the College Board with a statement reading:

“The Department didn’t ‘ban’ the course. 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.”

According to the College Board, more than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology last school year, making it one of the most popular AP courses in the state.

The American Psychological Association also warned that "the need for mental health services in Florida is especially high."

According to the APA:

  • Florida ranks 49th in access to mental health care
  • It has 53 designated Mental Health Professional Shortages Areas (HPSA), including 19 of its 67 counties being either a Geographical HPSA or a High Needs Geographic HPSA
  • Florida has the second highest percentage of adults in the nation with a mental illness who did not receive treatment in the past year
  • It ranks 35th in the nation in overall child well-being, and 30th for youth mental health

Celeste Springer is the education beat reporter for Spectrum News 13. If you have a story idea or concern, you can email her at celeste.springer@charter.com.

Spectrum News digital producer Mark Boxley contributed to this report.