The Florida Education Department and the College Board appeared to have reached a compromise regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ topics in Advanced Placement Psychology classes. However, some school districts are still considering ending the course.
On Thursday, the nonprofit education organization known as the College Board, which manages AP courses and the SAT, claimed that they were effectively banned due to content related to sexual orientation and gender identity. However, on the next day after the announcement was made, it was acknowledged by the state Education Department that the course can be taught in an age-appropriate and developmental manner.
NBC News was informed by officials and educators from six Florida school districts that they would not be offering the course this school year as of Tuesday.
Flagler Schools officials announced on Monday that they will be replacing AP Psychology with an International Baccalaureate psychology course, which is offered at a college level and is not taught in the traditional classroom setting.
A letter was sent by Hillsborough County Public Schools officials to parents and teachers, stating that they will be offering an Advanced International Certificate of Education psychology class instead of AP Psychology.
A Brevard Public Schools representative stated in a phone conversation on Tuesday that the district was following the Education Department’s preliminary recommendations and referred to NBC News’ announcement from the previous week.
“Our students will not receive AP credit if we don’t teach all of the content, and our instructors will break the law.”
The Florida Education Department did not respond immediately to a comment request. The College Board chose not to respond.
On Thursday, the College Board announced that the Education Department had effectively banned AP Psychology in Florida by warning superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited under state law.
The Education Department denied the ban on the course on Thursday, but did not respond to inquiries about whether it attempted to restrict its LGBTQ content.
In a letter sent to school superintendents on Friday, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. made it clear that the department is not discouraging districts from teaching AP Psychology.
According to Diaz, the Department believes that AP Psychology can be taught in an age and developmental manner, and the course is still listed in its course catalog.
The college’s guidance on Friday received a mixed reaction, with the College Board saying both “I hope you are all well today and deeply disappointed.”
The College Board has issued a statement acknowledging that the department is seeking more clarity on whether AP Psychology can be taught in its entirety, and they hope that Florida teachers will have the freedom to teach the full course without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for the White House, signed the Don’t Say Gay law in Florida last year, which allows parents to sue school districts if they believe they violate the measure.
In public and charter schools, it is forbidden for students in kindergarten through eighth grade to receive classroom instruction on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or in a manner that is not appropriate for their age or development as per state regulations.
Advocates argue that the law seeks to provide parents with a degree of autonomy in their children’s schooling, while opponents contend that it unfairly targets LGBTQ individuals.
According to the College Board’s description of the AP Psychology course and exam, the class’ LGBTQ content was intended to teach about the impact of sex and gender on socialization and other aspects of development.
For 17 years, Rachel Chapman has been teaching AP Psychology in Orange County public schools. She explained that the course emphasizes the definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity for students. In class, students have frequently discussed LGBTQ identities.
The property of Rachel Chapman. Photographed by Rachel Chapaman.
Despite the seemingly reversed decision by the Education Department, Chapman, aged 42, stated that her school district will not offer the course due to concerns about legal ramifications. She has been studying a new curriculum for an alternative psychology course in the past few days. Although students can still earn credits for the new course, she believes that the coursework is less comprehensive.
“The prospect of not knowing the outcome of a situation every day is exhilarating,” Chapman stated.
Chapman has received around twelve messages from her former students in the past few days, with some stating that the course had motivated them to pursue college and other rigorous courses while still in high school.
“It’s a heartbreaking reality that students won’t have access to such opportunities,” she stated.
According to the College Board’s announcement on Thursday, more than 28,000 students enrolled in AP Psychology, one of the most popular APS courses in Florida, during the previous academic year.