Florida parents, teachers demand clarity on AP Psychology

Florida Politics | By Jacob Ogles | August 8, 2023

The College Board said it ‘hopes’ Florida instructors can now teach without fear of punishment.

The Florida PTA says teachers need assurance they won’t be punished by teaching Advanced Placement Psychology in full this year.

The state’s largest parent organization sent a letter to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. demanding unequivocal guidance, and quickly, as many Florida school districts begin classes this week.

“We urge you to make the definition of ‘appropriate’ a matter of informed parental discretion, and to state this explicitly,” wrote Florida PTA President Carolyn Nelson-Goedert.

The missive comes amid confusion about whether Florida schools will even offer the course.

Diaz sent a letter to school districts Friday saying the course could be offered in its entirety. That seemed an abrupt reversal by the state, days after the Florida Board of Education said instructors would need to leave out content about sexuality and gender identity. That prompted pushback from the College Board, which said Florida could not list courses as AP classes while censoring the curriculum.

“In fact, the Department believes that AP Psychology can be taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate and the course remains listed in our course catalog,” Diaz wrote in a letter to school districts.

That appeared to satisfy the College Board, which issued a statement saying Florida could list AP courses. But the statement included some trepidation.

“Friday’s statement from the Florida Department of Education represents revised guidance on AP Psychology. While district Superintendents continue to seek additional clarity from the Department, we note the clear guidance that, ‘AP Psychology may be taught in its entirety,’” reads the College Board statement.

“We hope now that Florida teachers will be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year.”

But Florida teachers and parents alike want more than hope.

“In a college-level course with the potential to guarantee college-level credit, it is understood that students will be asked to master content that in scope, rigor and required maturity level exceeds that generally offered at the secondary level,” Nelson-Goedert wrote in her letter to Diaz.

“We further urge you to clarify that no instructor, administrator, school district or School Board member will be sanctioned for offering or approving instruction in gender identity or sexual orientation to students whose parents approve their enrollment in AP Psychology.”

The Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar also sent a letter to Diaz on Friday seeking clarity for instructors.

“We call on you to clearly and unambiguously state that nothing in AP Psychology course violated Florida statutes of Florida State Board of Education rule,” Spar wrote.

The Duval County School District has also announced that, regardless of Diaz’s letter, schools in the Greater Jacksonville area will not offer AP Psychology. Officials told Action News Jax in an email that offering the course puts teachers’ future in jeopardy based on conflicting direction from the state.

“If AP Psychology is taught in its entirety, which is required for students to sit for the exam, it could place teachers and school leaders in uncertain waters with potential charges under the law,” the email to the news outlet reads.

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