Florida reverses ‘Don’t Say Gay’ ban on high school psychology course

Florida governor Ron DeSantis

Florida has reversed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ ban on a high school psychology course, allowing it to be taught in an “age and developmentally appropriate” manner. 

On Thursday (3 August), higher education non-profit College Board claimed Florida’s Department of Education had instructed school superintendents that advanced placement (AP) Psychology classes are in violation of state law due to the course’s content on LGBTQ+ topics. 

The College Board develops and administers standardised tests and curricula used from kindergarten to 12th grade and post-secondary education, including the SAT, the Advanced Placement Program and BigFuture.

As part of AP Psychology, the course asks students to “describe how sex and gender influence socialisation and other aspects of development”.

However, under the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, classroom discussions of LGBTQ+ identities are banned.

The law was signed by Florida’s Republican governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis last year, and has been expanded in 2023 to ban discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in all public school grades. 

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The April expansion “prohibits classroom instruction to students in pre-kindergarten through grade three on sexual orientation or gender identity”, In grades four to 12, such discussions are prohibited except when “such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards” or part of an optional sex ed class. 

When DeSantis signed the bill, he claimed those opposing it supported “injecting woke gender ideology into second grade classrooms” and “sexualising students in kindergarten”.

The College Board argued on Thursday that it “cannot modify AP Psychology” in ways that would “censor” LGBTQ+ content – which has been part of the course since it was created 30 years ago – because the course would fail to reach university standards.

However, fears that the course would need to be axed due to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law have been assuaged following an announcement by the state’s education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr on Friday (4 August).

Diaz Jr has informed school superintendents that students will be able to study the course “in its entirety” if it’s taught “in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate”. 

The welcomed outcome is the latest in an ongoing feud between the College Board and Florida education officials over what can be taught in the state’s classrooms. 

In January 2023, DeSantis chose to ban AP African American Studies courses from the state’s high schools in a widely-criticised move.

Kelley Robinson, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement: “As anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers pass discriminatory legislation and spread dangerous misinformation, we’re continuing to see disturbing attempts to rewrite history and censor education, misaligned with the realities of our country. 

“Florida’s Department of Education has further compromised the quality of education in the state by acting as if LGBTQ+ people don’t exist.

“LGBTQ+ people do exist, and any decision to remove us from curricula isn’t going to change that.”

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