AP psychology gets green light, but South Florida schools remain cautious
Palm Beach County public schools will not offer AP psychology in the coming school year, despite the Florida Board of Education withdrawing its contentious instruction for the course to be avoided, according to reports.
But public schools in Monroe County will offer an adapted version of the course, while the districts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties told WLRN they are still assessing the situation — just days before the start of the school year across South Florida.
Last Thursday, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. had instructed school superintendents to avoid the Advanced Placement course in psychology. He argued that certain parts of the curriculum that cover sexual orientation and gender identity violated the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics call the "Don't Say Gay" law.
At that point, school districts could have taught AP Psychology, so long as it excluded those topics.
But the College Board, which runs the AP program, said that, without those topics, the course can no longer be considered "Advanced Placement," and thereby, cannot count for college credit.
"We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law. The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics," the College Board said in a press release on Thursday.
In a letter to school officials on Friday, Diaz called this “concerning” and said it would hurt Florida students. He said they were now allowed to teach AP Psychology in its entirety.
"College Board has suggested that it might withhold the 'AP' designation from this course in Florida, ultimately hurting Florida students. This is especially concerning given that the new school year begins in a week," Diaz said in the letter.
BREAKING: Florida Education Commissioner @CommMannyDiazJr has instructed Florida school superintendents they can teach the @CollegeBoard's AP Psychology course "in its entirety". @StJohnsCountySD has already announced it will continue providing the course next school year keeping… pic.twitter.com/425fsgIqoi— Jake Stofan (@JakeStofan) August 4, 2023
State of play in South Florida's counties
Despite the state’s reversal, Palm Beach County Schools will still not offer the course this upcoming school year, which begins on Thursday. According to the Palm Beach Post, a spokesperson for the district cited the uncertainty surrounding the quote “viability’ of the course.
School administrators said that they will reach out to students who had enrolled in the course and help them find "suitable alternatives."
A Miami-Dade County Schools spokesperson told WLRN in an email, "Miami-Dade County Public Schools is exploring all options to provide students who were enrolled in the Advanced Placement Psychology course the opportunity to earn college credit."
Meanwhile, Broward County Public schools said "the district is continuing to evaluate its course offerings to ensure compliance with state laws while also meeting the needs of our students." The first day of school in Broward County is Aug. 21.
In Monroe County, the school district will offer AP Psychology this year with "an age appropriate lesson" for chapter 6.7 — on gender and sexual orientation — that "aligns with both the Florida law and the College Board course." School starts this Thursday, Aug. 10.
Instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited from being included in lessons for Florida students in kindergarten through eighth grade, underHouse Bill 1069 which was signed into law in May.
According to the College Board, more than 28,000 Florida students took the AP Psychology course last school year.
The AP course "asks students to ‘describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.’ This element of the framework is not new: gender and sexual orientation have been part of AP Psychology since the course launched 30 years ago,” the board's press release said.
This is not the first time that Florida Education officials have bumped heads with the College Board. Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration had blocked an AP course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying that the curriculum does not align with the state's revised standards for teaching Black history. .
*The Associated Press and the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.