By Justin Gamble and Emma Tucker, CNN
(CNN) — The College Board is encouraging school districts in Florida not to offer Advanced Placement Psychology classes after it was informed the state’s education board reportedly told districts the course can no longer be taught in the state if it includes lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, the organization said in a statement Thursday.
“Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements,” said the College Board, a non-profit that oversees AP coursework and administers the SAT college admissions test.
“Therefore, we advise Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until Florida reverses their decision and allows parents and students to choose to take the full course,” the board said.
More than 28,000 Florida students took AP psychology courses last year, according to the College Board, which called it one of the most popular classes in the state. In 2021, AP Psychology was the fifth most popular AP class in the state, according to a report by the Florida Department of Education.
In a statement to CNN, the department said it did not ban the course, but instead says the College Board is “attempting to force school districts to prevent students from taking the AP Psychology Course,” just one week before the beginning of the new school year.
“The course remains listed in Florida’s Course Code Directory for the 2023-24 school year. We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly,” the department said.
The College Board says concepts on gender and sexual orientation that are recommended for inclusion in AP Psychology courses have been taught since the course launched 30 years ago.
“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 board said in a news release.
Florida and College Board at odds over school curriculum
This latest decision by the Florida Department of Education is the most recent chapter in a battle between the College Board and the state over what is appropriate to be taught in schools.
Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law, which bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.
The law states “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
DeSantis’ move was met with immediate backlash from LGBTQ advocates, including the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that works on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. The controversial measure was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by opponents.
The law also requires districts to “adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being” – something LGBTQ advocates argued could lead to some students being outed to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent, CNN previously reported.
In March, the Florida Department of Education approved a proposed rule by the DeSantis administration to extend the ban on classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity to all grades.
After reviewing the proposed rule the following month, Florida’s education board voted to ban teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity through high school. The decision clarified that outside of health or reproductive courses, such instruction is not appropriate at any grade level, CNN reported.
Then, in May, the state Department of Education asked the College Board to conduct a review of all AP courses to ensure they comply with the new Florida laws, the board said.
In a June 15 news release, the board said it will not modify “courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics. Doing so would break the fundamental promise of AP: colleges wouldn’t broadly accept that course for credit and that course wouldn’t prepare students for careers in the discipline.”
The same month, the American Psychological Association issued a statement in support of the College Board’s decision not to delete content regarding sexual orientation and gender. The organization affirmed its “unqualified support” for the College Board’s “refusal to accede to a demand by Florida to delete content regarding sexual orientation and gender identity from its” AP curriculum, according to the news release.
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CNN’s Denise Royal and Steve Contorno contributed to this report.