Florida Schools to Offer AP Psychology Course in Spite of "Don't Say Gay" Controversy | Miami New Times


Broward, Miami-Dade to Offer AP Psych Course in Spite of "Don't Say Gay" Controversy UPDATED

"We have decided to make enrollment for this elective an 'opt-in' process that expressly requires parental consent," Broward County's superintendent said in a statement.
State senator Manny Diaz Jr. was appointed in April 2022 to lead the Florida Department of Education.
State senator Manny Diaz Jr. was appointed in April 2022 to lead the Florida Department of Education. Manny Diaz Jr. state senate photo/Facebook
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Update published 8:20 p.m. 8/9/2023: Broward County Public Schools' administrators are asking parents of local high school students to sign an "opt-in" form if they want their children to take the AP Psychology course whose lessons on sexual orientation and gender were at the center of friction between the College Board and the Florida Department of Education.

"Recognizing the depth and breadth of topics covered in AP Psychology and in line with the importance of prioritizing student well-being and parental choice, we have decided to make enrollment for this elective an 'opt-in' process that expressly requires parental consent," Broward superintendent Peter Licata said in an August 9 statement.

More than 2,500 Broward public school students took the course last school year.

In an August 9 memo, Miami-Dade County superintendent Jose Dotres confirmed with the local school board that Miami-Dade will also be offering the course for the 2023-2024 school year. Dotres cited Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr.'s August 4 comments that the class would remain in the state's course catalogue and can be taught in full.

Following a wave of confusion last week over whether the course will violate Florida's restrictions on classroom discussions about sexual orientation, some other heavily populated Florida counties, such as Hillsborough and Pinellas, said they were holding off on providing the course.

The original story follows below.

Puzzled over the status of AP Psychology in Florida schools? It appears you're not alone.

Last week, the College Board, the nonprofit organization that approves AP coursework, announced that Florida had in effect banned the Advanced Placement class by restricting its lessons on sexual orientation and gender under the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" regulations. After outcry erupted, the state countered that the course could be "taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate."

The conflicting narratives have resulted in general befuddlement ahead of the new school year: The Palm Beach County School District reportedly said it would be dropping the class from its course catalogue amid the confusion, while Miami-Dade suggested it might follow suit.

An internal email obtained by New Times (attached at the bottom of this story) shows how Broward County Public Schools' leader remains mired in questions over the status of the course. It remains unclear how Broward plans to proceed.

"I have been on two meetings with all state superintendents and Florida Department of Education these past couple of days," superintendent Peter Licata wrote in an August 6 email to school board members, "and the status is still somewhat unclear."

On Friday, August 4, less than a day after College Board's announcement, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter to Florida school district superintendents asserting that the high school psychology class, which includes topics on sexual orientation and gender, would remain in the state's course catalogue and can be taught in full.

In the August 6 email, Licata said that while he received a "personal call" from Diaz on Friday that "went very well," it still left him with questions on "guaranteeing the use of the course and the test for our students."

"Since many districts are starting school this week, they have been forced to make decisions that they believe are best for their students," Licata wrote in the email. "But we do have a little more time to resolve; especially if the state or College Board change their perspectives again."

Broward public school administrators have said little publicly about how they plan to proceed with the AP Psychology course. A spokesperson previously indicated that no decision has been made.

"The first day of classes for Broward County Public Schools is two weeks away. The District is continuing to evaluate its course offerings to ensure compliance with state laws while also meeting the needs of our students," spokesperson Cathleen Brennan wrote in an email to New Times.

According to the College Board, more than 28,000 Florida students took the AP Psychology course last school year, making it one of the most popular AP courses in the state. AP classes offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credits and boost their weighted grade-point average.

The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest professional organization of psychologists in the U.S., said that the removal of the sexual orientation and gender topics from the course would render it incomplete and inadequate.
The College Board maintained the course would be incomplete if it chopped material in order to comply with state rules.

"Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements," the board wrote, saying it would withhold the "AP" designation unless the state allowed the full course to be taught.

Teachers found in violation of the Florida Department of Education's rules against sexual orientation instruction, which were enacted alongside the state's related "Don't Say Gay" statutes, could face suspension or revocation of their teaching licenses.
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