Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. must clarify state of AP Psychology, advocates say

‘No teacher should be left to wait for permission to deliver a course in the same manner they did just two months ago’

By: - August 7, 2023 4:29 pm

Classroom. Credit: Getty Images

Three days before most Florida students go back to school, education advocates are putting pressure on Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. to issue clear guidance on the instruction of an Advanced Placement Psychology course.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. Credit: Florida Department of Education

Controversy surrounding the College Board’s course erupted late last week, when the nonprofit released a statement saying Florida had “effectively” banned the course over its sexual orientation and gender identity content. Even after Diaz Jr. seemingly reversed course in an Aug. 4 letter to superintendents stating that schools could offer the complete class in a manner that is “age and developmentally appropriate,” districts are still scrambling to find a solution.

Meanwhile, the presidents of the Florida PTA and Florida Education Association want Diaz Jr. to explicitly say teachers can instruct the AP course’s topics pertinent to gender identity and sexual orientation.

“No teacher should be left to wait for permission to deliver a course in the same manner they did just two months ago when the last school year ended,” FEA president Andrew Spar wrote to Diaz Jr. on Aug. 5. “For that reason, we have been instructing every educator who has reached out to us about the course to teach it fully, faithfully and without fear of reprisal.”

Similarly, Carolyn Nelson-Goedert from the Florida PTA called on Diaz Jr. to clarify that AP Psych instructors, school administrators and school board members won’t face sanctions over instruction of the course, according to a Monday press release. The president of the advocacy group also wrote that parents of students interested in AP Psychology should know that the class involves instruction on gender and sexuality.

“This is a slippery slope. In many Florida school districts, the status of AP Psychology remains in doubt, and many are wondering which course or course component might be next on the chopping block,” she wrote in the press release. “Let us all work together so that in the future no student, parent, teacher, administrator or school board member need worry that censorship, no matter how well-intentioned, will circumscribe a student’s potential.”

Seeking clarity

Approximately 30,000 were set to take the course, according to the College Board. Psychology is among nearly 40 AP classes, which are usually top high school courses that students take across the country. Those students can receive college credits if they pass a particular AP exam or exams.

School districts across the state are still trying to determine what the commissioner’s letter means. In Alachua County, public school officials are seeking clarification from Diaz Jr, a school district spokesperson wrote to Florida Phoenix. As of now, the school district’s public high schools will let students choose between a Cambridge AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education)  Psychology course, which could give them college credit, or the College Board’s AP Human Geography.

Brevard County Public Schools issued a statement saying that its schools would offer AICE or International Baccalaureate psychology courses.

Approximately 346 students in Sarasota County Schools signed up for the AP Psychology class. The district has yet to make a decision. Their classes start on Thursday.

This is the second time that the Florida Department of Education has blocked an AP course. The first time, educators, lawmakers and civil rights advocates fought over a pilot AP course on African American history. That spawned protests in the streets in the state capital.

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Jackie Llanos
Jackie Llanos

Jackie is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media and Virginia Mercury.