Uncertainty looms over the fate of AP Psychology classes in Florida as superintendents demand clarity

A controversy has erupted in Florida over the content of an Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology course, as state officials and educators clash over the inclusion of topics related to sexuality. The Florida Department of Education is requesting that the nonprofit organization College Board modify the course to comply with new rules limiting education on sexuality in public schools. State officials argue that the course’s current content violates these administrative rules, which were approved by the Florida State Board of Education in April.

For approximately three decades, AP Psychology has been a staple in high schools throughout Florida. However, this year, its future hangs in the balance due to the dispute between the Florida Department of Education and College Board. The state is urging the nonprofit to remove some of the course’s content on sexuality, claiming that it goes against the new regulations. According to Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, these rules are not intended to change the course but rather ensure that it aligns with the state’s standards.

The controversy has left some school districts scrambling to find alternative courses before the start of the new school year. In an effort to alleviate concerns, Commissioner Diaz sent a letter to superintendents stating that the Department of Education believes AP Psychology can be taught in its entirety while still adhering to Florida’s limitations. The College Board cautiously responded, expressing hope that Florida teachers will be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without facing any repercussions.

Parents, however, are expressing their frustration with the situation. Judi Hayes, whose 10th-grade student attends Orange County Public Schools, voiced her concern about the timing of the dispute, just days before the new school year begins. She fears that it may put her child at a disadvantage, especially when applying to top-tier universities outside of Florida that require multiple AP classes. Meanwhile, the College Board maintains its stance that the course must be taught in its entirety, emphasizing that the topics on sexuality are essential to the curriculum.

Former AP Psychology educators agree with the nonprofit organization, arguing that omitting these important topics would be dishonest to students. One such educator, who now works in a Montessori program in Ocoee, Florida, criticized the notion that teaching gender development automatically involves sexualizing children. This individual urged the Board of Education to observe an AP Psychology class firsthand to witness how these subjects are taught without any inappropriate content.

Despite the ongoing controversy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stands by his education reforms. When asked about the issue, he pointed out that there are alternative programs available, such as Cambridge and International Baccalaureate, and emphasized the expansion of dual enrollment with community colleges. Nonetheless, as the first day of class approaches, with some school districts in Florida resuming on August 10, the fate of AP Psychology remains uncertain.

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