Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration has taken steps that effectively bar a high school Advanced Placement (AP) psychology course in the state due to its inclusion of lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, which the state claims violate its laws, as confirmed by the College Board on Thursday.
This decision has escalated an ongoing dispute between the Republican presidential candidate and the large education nonprofit, jeopardizing the academic plans of thousands of Florida students just before the start of the new school year.
The College Board expressed disappointment in a statement, stating that the Florida Department of Education had essentially banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing superintendents that teaching content related to sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law.
They further stated that districts are allowed to teach AP Psychology only if they exclude any mention of these topics, which they consider essential.
Earlier this summer, the College Board refused to alter its AP Psychology curriculum related to gender and sexual orientation, directly challenging DeSantis’ administration’s increased restrictions on classroom instruction.
The conflict between Florida and the nonprofit dates back to their disagreement over an African American history AP course, which state officials criticized for being aligned with Critical Race Theory and deemed a violation of Florida law.
The DeSantis administration, however, denied the College Board’s latest claims, accusing the nonprofit of trying to prevent access to the course.
The Florida Department of Education responded by accusing the College Board of playing games with students and claimed that the course is still listed in Florida’s Course Code Directory for the 2023-24 school year, denying that they had banned it.
This controversy follows Florida’s previous national attention on its Black history teaching standards, which drew criticism from Vice President Kamala Harris and Black conservatives.
More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year, according to the College Board. The course covers topics such as how sex and gender influence socialization and development.
The board emphasized that the state’s ban on this content limits the choices of parents and students, which disrupts the college readiness and affordability plans of thousands of Florida students already registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state.
Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, also criticized Florida’s decision, comparing it to the state’s previous objections to the AP African American Studies course. The organization condemned the DeSantis administration for denying students the opportunity to earn college credit.
The DeSantis administration’s stance against sexual content in Florida’s schools has also involved strengthening a state rule known as “Don’t Say Gay,” which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity among all K-12 students, expanding beyond the original 2022 law that targeted children in kindergarten through third grade.
The College Board’s refusal to modify the course content has resulted in a stalemate affecting Florida students as the fall semester approaches, creating uncertainty for many.
Florida education officials informed school superintendents of the state’s decision during a conference call.