Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Rendell informed the School Board today that he has canceled all AP Psychology courses this year.
“There were too many uncertainties that could affect our students, and our staff. If our instructors teach the course as College Board directs, they will violate state law. If our instructors teach the course without the identified content, then AP will not certify the course – and our students lose the AP credit (and possible college credit).”
In an email to the board yesterday, Rendell stated that, “Many of our students are enrolled in this course with the hopes of earning college credit. Many are also seeking an AP Capstone designation, or AP Scholar designation, and would need this course to meet those goals. As stated earlier, College Board will not certify the course as “AP” if we omit the curriculum in question.”
The curriculum which has been in place, nationwide for 3 decades, now violates Florida’s new “Dont say Gay” law, HB 1069, which prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The following statement is being released to Brevard families:
Our goal is to ensure that we are making decisions that are in the best interest of our students and our staff. It has become clear that offering the Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology Course to our students this school year, could be detrimental to our students, and our instructors. There is content in the AP Psychology curriculum required by the College Board, that violates recently enacted state legislation. College Board has indicated that if our instructors do not teach all of the content in the course, including the section that violates state law, they will not certify the course. It will not count as an AP course. Students will lose the opportunity to earn college credit. Conversely, if our instructors teach all of the content in the course, they will violate state law. In essence, if we don’t teach all of the content, our students will not receive AP credit. If we do teach all of the content, our instructors will violate the law. Therefore, we will not offer AP Psychology at any of our high schools this year.
Each of our high schools are identifying alternative options for their students and instructors. These options include other AP courses, or a college-level Psychology course offered through the International Baccalaureate program, or the AICE program (Cambridge). Each school will work with each student and family to ensure that a proper alternative is in place. Please contact your individual high school for questions regarding the available options at your school.
We understand that the timing of these changes is not ideal, but our goal at this point is to ensure that our students receive proper credit for a course they complete, and that our instructors are not placed in jeopardy because of a course they teach.
At least on high school principal has already sent notice to parents. Viera High sent a message stating “Because of the recent legislative changes and College Board’s stance on the issue, we are not offering AP Psychology this year. We are being allowed to offer AICE Psychology in it’s place. AICE Psychology is a college level course which also culminates in a test that will give students with passing scores college credit.”
Pinellas County Schools, who had 1300 students signed up for the AP class, has adopted the same course of action. Students who pass the Cambridge AICE Psychology exam will be eligible for college-equivalent credit for PSY X012, the district said. They also said Cambridge AICE has assured their course materials don’t violate Florida law regarding the teaching of sexuality and gender identity in classrooms.
The problem is, that is not necessarily true.
The Development Committee responsible for guiding the AP Psychology course addressed the AICE issue. It is unlikely that students would receive college credit for taking courses that have been modified in anyway from the standards already in place.
“We are surprised that IB and AICE/Cambridge—after agreeing to Florida’s demand that they exclude all references to gender and sexual orientation—expect universities to accept their courses and exams for college credits,” the group wrote. “No experienced educator or practitioner in our field would support the decision to make these topics off limits.”
“To alter the way the Cambridge/AICE psychology course is taught by prohibiting the discussion of the topics of sexual orientation and gender diversity the normal course of inquiry would irreparably alter the course outcome for students.”
APA’s standards for this content are not new. APA’s National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula, which guide curriculum decisions and instruction for high school psychology classes, have been in use by high school psychology teachers for nearly 25 years.
The American Psychological Association (APA) said any course excluding the topics violates their guidelines and can’t be used for college credit.
ACE President Ted Mitchell previously said that “it strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity.”
In essence, due Florida’s new law banning discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation, even in college level courses offered in high school, a course which 28,000 students took last year for college credit in Florida is now gone.
Additionally, the alternative being offered to families, which strips those portions of the approved curriculum in order satisfy the state law, likely won’t result in college credit for them either, although they are being told it will.
The course has roughly a $640 value in in-state tuition savings for Florida Public universities. Administrators promising college credit for a course that ultimately does not result in that, could likely put the school district and the state on the hook for that cost through litigation. If enrollment this year matched last year’s, that’s over $19 million in college credit out the window for Florida students.
With school starting next week, it’s not exactly clear how the individual high schools will pull this off, as Dr. Rendell has left it up to them to come up with a solution, as opposed to a district-wide one.
The rationale for his decision was as he said because of “uncertainty” however, as a result of his decision and that state, things are now more uncertain than they ever were. And students and families are paying the price, literally.
They want to argue these topics are mental health issues, then ban teaching about it in psychology classes.
Why psychology requires the study of gender and sexual orientation
The study of gender identity and sexual orientation is required in a psychology course because they are important topics to the field of developmental psychology. There is robust scientific literature on gender identity and sexual orientation. Excluding discussion of this content not only deprives students of an understanding of the breadth of psychological science, it prevents them from understanding human development and identity.
Psychology, as a discipline and profession, seeks to foster the healthy development of personal identity, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity (American Psychological Association, 2015). Quality psychology curricula incorporate this principle. The understanding of, and engaging in conversations about, gender identity is relevant to all students, as everyone has an identity. Inclusion of identities in the classroom shapes students’ understanding of the world (American Psychological Association, 2023). Educational programs that are inclusive and provide opportunities to understand concepts such as gender diversity can benefit all students (American Psychological Association, 2023; Diamond, 2020).
Affirming, inclusive, developmentally appropriate approaches to teaching about human sexuality have been found to be associated with positive outcomes, such as appreciation of sexual diversity, dating and intimate partner violence prevention, and development of healthy relationships (Goldfarb & Lieberman, 2021). Removing the study of groups of people is a form of discrimination and we know that discrimination against sexual and gender minority people is associated with higher rates of negative mental and behavioral health outcomes than in the general population (Hatzenbuehler, Phelan & Link, 2013; Hendricks & Testa, 2012; Meyer, 2003). Misinformation about human sexuality will thrive if credible sources of information are removed.
“It is ill-advised to limit the education of potential future psychologists who can serve the growing mental health needs in the state.”