Johannes Werner: It’s back to school, and teachers, students and parents in Sarasota are facing uncertainty after an educational publishing nonprofit warned schools its Advanced Placement Psychology course may violate a new Florida law. A clarification by the Florida Secretary of Education did not help, and school districts across the state are now reacting differently. Sophia Brown has her eyes on the Sarasota School District.
Host: About 30,000 Florida high school students were set to take Advanced Placement Psychology the school year. Now, many of them won’t be able to, and 350 of them in Sarasota County may not be getting the version of the course that they signed up for.
The four secondary schools in the county that were slated to offer AP Psychology will still get to do so, but only if they meet the standards for what the Florida Department of Education considers “age and developmentally appropriate.”
How we got to this point began on Thursday, August 3, when the College Board released a statement saying that the Department of Education has effectively banned the course “by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law.” The statement continues to say that the College Board cannot censor or modify college-level standards for credit, and so the course couldn’t truly be called Advanced Placement with topics of gender or sexuality removed.
Out of the nine units in AP Psychology, Unit Six on developmental psychology teaches how physical and social changes can influence behavior, and lumps together topics of gender and sexuality with aging, adolescence and moral development. On the official College Board Advanced Placement YouTube channel, a 48-minute long video summarizing Unit Six of AP Psychology uploaded in 2022 does not mention sexuality at all, and mentions gender once for about 30 seconds.
Official College Board AP Psychology Review audio: Okay, so according to Lawrence Kohlberg, which has very limited studies of men over a 20 year period, morality progresses from an egocentric stage to one based on societal and family expectations. Although we didn’t get to discuss it today, Carol Gilligan did take a look at those studies, and really, on morality, she said that women don’t follow those same stages. In fact, you can’t generalize those results to women. Women are more likely to consider personal relationships when making moral decisions versus social obligations, or social justice.
Host: Even so, both House Bill 1069 and House Bill 1557 make discussion of gender or sexuality in K-12 classrooms illegal, and the College Board advised Florida districts not to offer the course unless these decisions are reversed. Just like that, many educator’s plans for the 2023-24 school year were suddenly up in the air with only a week before classes started.
By the next day, public schools in Brevard County, Lake County, Marion County, Orange County, Polk County and Sumter County have all cancelled AP Psychology courses in public schools for this year.
Then, a day after the College Board’s press release came a retort from the Department of Education, stating that they will not be discouraging districts from teaching AP Psychology if it is taught in a manner that is “age and developmentally appropriate.”
Many superintendents are now caught between a rock and a hard place. What can be considered age and developmentally appropriate according to Florida law is not defined by the Department of Education. Teaching AP Psychology uncensored could violate the law, but attempting to water it down could also risk student’s college credit. Many districts aren’t taking any chances, but Sarasota County isn’t among them.
On Monday, parents with a child enrolled in AP Psychology received an email from Sarasota County School’s Curriculum and Instruction Department, saying that they will be developing a “district-wide lesson for AP Psychology’s 6.7 component”—that is, the part of this unit that discusses sexuality and gender.
Kelsey Whealy, the Media Relations Specialist for Sarasota County Schools, told WSLR that IB and AICE Psychology programming will not be altered.
AP Psychology courses in Sarasota County will begin as scheduled, but changes or omissions to the course remain to be seen.
This has been Sophia Brown reporting for WSLR News.
Sunday, March 3, 2024
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