Discover more from Wonkette
Looks Like Maybe Florida Will Allow AP Psychology After All. Or Who Knows?
Psychoanalyzing the governor strictly prohibited.
We have an update to last week’s news that Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law meant that Advanced Placement Psychology couldn’t be taught in Florida. Thursday, the College Board, which publishes the curriculum, said that sexual preference and gender identity are essential parts of the class, and that if Florida schools omitted them, students wouldn’t get college credit for the class. Florida’s restrictive standards, the College Board advised school districts, had “effectively banned AP Psychology in the state.”
Florida officials initially accused the College Board of “playing games with Florida students,” but didn’t address whether schools would be breaking state law if they taught AP Psych as designed.
“is not discouraging districts from teaching AP Psychology."
"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.
But was that really a “reversal” at all? Diaz didn’t clarify what he meant, and his advice seems to be at odds with his own department’s policies.
You see, the original 2022 “Parental Rights in Education” law banned classroom discussion of “sexual orientation and gender identity” from grades K-3, but allowed such instruction in higher grades if it were “age and developmentally appropriate.”
The Florida Lege extended that prohibition through eighth grade in an update of the law, HB 1069, that Desantis signed in May. That law specifies that
If such instruction is provided in grades 9 through 12, the instruction must be age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.
But here’s the kink, which we’ll jolly well shame: In April, at Diaz’s urging, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to go even farther, adopting new “Professional Conduct” rules declaring that teachers
Shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards[…] or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.
AP Psych is neither required by state standards, nor is it a sex ed class, and regardless of Diaz’s letter, the rule says nothing about age or developmental appropriateness.
But the Professional Conduct rules are quite specific that any violation “shall subject the individual to revocation or suspension of the individual educator’s certificate, or the other penalties as provided by law.” And as Judd Legum points out, Diaz hasn’t altered that rule at all.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that multiple Florida school districts aren’t willing to take the risk of trusting Diaz’s reassuring statement.
Because “there’s ambiguity,” Orange County Public Schools will move about 2,400 students signed up for AP psychology into other psychology courses before the new school year starts Thursday, Superintendent Maria Vazquez said Monday.
The Lake, Osceola and Seminole county school districts all plan to do the same with their students who signed up for AP psychology for the coming year. So do some of Florida’s other large school districts, including those in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
Sarasota County Schools said on Monday they’ll offer AP Psychology “in a way that is age-appropriate,” although school spokesperson Craig Maniglia didn’t clarify to the Herald-Tribune whether that meant it would axe the sections on sexual orientation and gender identity, which would mean students can’t get AP credit, or whether teachers will go ahead and teach the course as designed and take the chance that Diaz wasn’t just being cute.
Leon County Schools, home to Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, appears to be the sole district in the state to say definitively that it’ll teach AP Psych as designed. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement that “Our teachers have some concerns, but we are going to take the commissioner of education's word when he says Advanced Placement Psychology may be taught in its entirety.”
Hanna added in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat that “Sometimes in life it takes courage to do the right thing – this is one of those moments.” Good for him and the school board, and we hope it works.
At a back-to-school breakfast Tuesday, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Mike Burke apologized to parents whose kids won’t be able to take AP Psychology, explaining that “If there was a way we could teach this course and not have our teachers get arrested, we would do it in a second.”
Yes, that’s an American school superintendent in 2023, being very realistic about the march of fascism in Florida.
In a letter to Diaz Saturday, the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, called on Diaz to “clearly and unambiguously state that nothing in the AP Psychology course violates Florida statutes or Florida State Board of Education rule[s].” The letter added that the FEA has been advising any teachers who ask that they should teach the class “fully, faithfully, and without fear of reprisal,” although it asked Diaz to advise the FEA in writing if he believes that’s inaccurate advice. The union also pledged to fully support any teachers who are targeted for discipline.
Likewise, a letter from the Florida PTA on Monday asked asked Diaz for clarification, and for an explicit statement 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.
Big surprise! With school set to start Wednesday, the Department of Education still hasn’t clarified whether teachers can teach the full course without fear of punishment.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please subscribe, or if you prefer, you can make a one-time donation. The donation button below is supportive and nonjudgmental.