By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) -Florida has told school superintendents that an Advanced Placement psychology course offered to high school students violates a new state law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, the nonprofit that develops the courses said on Thursday.
“The Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state,” the College Board said in a statement, referring to the guidance.
The move is the latest by the administration of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to limit instruction about LGBTQ issues and race in the state. DeSantis is challenging former U.S. President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 and has made battles over cultural issues a centerpiece of his campaign.
Florida this year banned a new AP African American studies course, saying it lacked “educational value and historical accuracy” and violated state law on how race can be taught in public classrooms.
While Florida officials said the psychology curriculum could still be presented if modified to comply with the law, the College Board recommended that school districts refrain from teaching the course for now, rather than presenting the material without the content on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“To be clear, any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements,” the College Board said on Thursday. “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.”
A Florida Department of Education spokesperson denied that the state had banned the psychology course as contended by the College Board, which develops AP courses that help high school students gain college credits.
“Just one week before school starts, the College Board is attempting to force school districts to prevent students from taking the AP Psychology Course,” said education department spokesperson Cassandra Palelis.
“We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly.”
Palelis did not respond to a question about whether the state had advised superintendents that the course violated state law.
Discussions between the state and College Board about the psychology course began in May, a letter from Florida posted by the College Board on its website showed.
In the letter, the state reminded the organization about its new law banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all but health courses from which parents can opt out of sending their children.
The state asked the College Board to audit its course material and modify any content that did not comply with the law or rules set by the state board of education.
The College Board said that modifying its courses in such a way would make them ineligible for college credit and would also violate academic standards.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Richard Chang)