Florida’s School Censorship Runs Into Roadblocks

The state has banned the teaching of science in science classes.

The College Board has released a “Statement on AP Psychology and Florida” that begins:

We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law. The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.

The AP course asks students to “describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.” This element of the framework is not new: gender and sexual orientation have been part of AP Psychology since the course launched 30 years ago.

As we shared in June, we cannot modify AP Psychology in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness. Our policy remains unchanged. Any course that censors required course content cannot be labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” and the “AP Psychology” designation cannot be utilized on student transcripts.

To be clear, any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements. Therefore, we advise Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until Florida reverses their decision and allows parents and students to choose to take the full course.

We have heard from teachers across Florida who are heartbroken that they are being forced to drop AP and instead teach alternatives that have been deemed legal because the courses exclude these topics.

The American Psychological Association recently reaffirmed that any course that excludes these topics would violate their guidelines and should not be considered for college credit. The APA has given this direct guidance to organizations that have agreed to this censorship.

Similarly, American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell has said: “It strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity.”

The state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students. Coming just days from the start of school, it derails the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state. AP is recognized by thousands of colleges and universities across the United States for admissions, scholarships consideration, college credit, and advanced standing. More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year.

I’m more sympathetic than most OTB readers to the arguments for shielding elementary-age children from these sensitive topics, as many states have done in recent years. But Florida has gone much further, banning them all the way through high school, including the AP classes that are essentially college-level courses. That’s simply indefensible.

The College Board and APA have no real choice here. It would be absurd to offer high school, much less college, credit to a Psychology course that ignored the fundamental topics of human sexuality and gender identity.

FILED UNDER: Education, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mikey says:

    I feel so sorry for the kids in Florida whose chance at a legitimate education and opportunity to attend a decent college have both been destroyed by Republican bigotry and ignorance.

  2. EdB says:

    My bisexual daughter started asking us questions about her own sexual orientation around fifth or sixth grade. This stuff doesn’t wait until you are 18 or nineteen. By then, it is too late, as we saw with some of our daughters’ college friends whose families resisted the reality their kids lived in. Raising children sometimes includes unexpected realities you had best deal with when they come up. And if a whole section of society tries to shield potential future mental health workers from the true nature of humans, it can never be good. I spend a lot of time in my volunteer work with very smart high school kids. They are ready for reality.

  3. Kurtz says:


    My bisexual daughter started asking us questions about her own sexual orientation around fifth or sixth grade.

    Thank you for this. I was going to make a similar comment, not because of my orientation nor my non-existent children, but from personal stories from those who have them. Most of the time, the age they recognize their orientation is quite young.

    Many elementary school students have crushes. Adults need to recognize that. And they need to recognize what that means for LGBTQ kids and education as a whole.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    The DeSantinistas were smug when the College Board folded over African American studies AP, but in that case the CB was in a bind, as it wanted to still confer the advantages of receiving AP credit to the mostly black students who would take the course. Other AP courses are different since the audience is any student. We can hope that the action by the group that defines the Psych AP, will encourage other AP offerings to resist Florida’s attempts to bend the programs to an idology.

  5. Tony W says:

    I have become convinced this is just a big game for the Republicans. They don’t really care about LGBTQ+ rights, censorship, banning books, white folks feeling bad about being white, or any of this other rhetoric that they give us.

    Look at DeSantis. He gets all this crazy stuff passed with his R legislature, knowing full well that much of it won’t pass constitutional muster. But he has tied up the press and the courts sorting it all out, and, most importantly, he has *prevented progress* on anything.

    Gish gallop has become the entire Republican platform.

  6. Kurtz says:


    Oh, not to worry. The state will make sure they can go to New College and Hillsdale or a college that heavily weights the Classic Learning Test.

  7. Jen says:

    Good for the College Board. Glad to see they’ve developed a spine, now they need to stick to it.

    Florida is really putting a lot of students in a bit of a bind when it comes to college credits, and it’s too bad because earning credits while in high school is an excellent way to reduce costs–meaning, of course, that AP credits are a good way to help cash-strapped students who don’t want to mire themselves in debt.

    Off Topic:

    I’m more sympathetic than most OTB readers to the arguments for shielding elementary-age children from these sensitive topics, as many states have done in recent years.

    I understand the arguments, but of course ostracizing and bullying starts pretty early. In my little town, we have a fair number of gay couples with young kids, and a fair number of conservatives. If kids don’t have an early and general introduction to these topics, they quickly identify the “others” and the bullying starts. Teaching general kindness doesn’t go far if some of the messages are directly undercut by parents at home.

  8. Stormy Dragon says:


    I’d qualify the “this stuff doesn’t wait” a bit. Some queer people don’t figure themselves out until later and the “I knew it at age 5” narrative can be a big obstacle because they get treated as fake for having their “ohhhhhh…..” moment later in life

  9. Scott says:

    AP Psychology is a voluntary course. This is, of course, stamping on parental rights. However, to the authoritarians, parental rights only exist if they agree with them. This is a great opportunity to push back and make conservative board members very uncomfortable during board meetings.

    @Jen: I don’t know how it is with other state or school districts but in our school district, AP courses come with a 1.15 multiplier on grades helping the student to rise in class rank and grade point average. In Texas, top 10% get automatic admission to state schools (except UT where it is top 6%).

  10. drj says:

    shielding elementary-age children from these sensitive topics

    But we never shield kids from heterosexuality (porn, sure, but never heterosexual parents, heterosexual crushes, etc.).

    Which means that we’re not shielding the kids, we’re shielding the parents.

    Also, imagine a world in which kids would be shielded from all heterosexual behavior (e.g., mummy and daddy never exhibiting any physical affection), and how completely messed up such a world would be.

    Now imagine the enormity of what the “protect-our-kids” crowd wants to impose on all non-heterosexual children.

  11. steve says:

    I dont think conservatives view psychology as a real major, it’s not STEM, so they largely wont care. I suspect they will come up with a new course and instruct schools to multiply it by the same modifier as an official AP course. All Florida schools will accept that and the large majority of schools in red states. Will only affect the kids that wanted to study psychology at Stanford or similar and in the eyes of the GOP those kids are losers.

    I would also agree strongly with Tony W above. A lot of people in Florida do believe this stuff but most of this is about improving the chances of DeSantis running for POTUS. The more he can own the libs the better and collateral damage is immaterial.


  12. DK says:

    Do Republicans know how pop culture works in 2023? Do they really think fighting 20th century battles is shielding today’s kids when even elementary-age children now have access to mobile phones, the internet, and social media?

    Conservatives tantruming about their kids learning queer people exist (o! the horror!) are doing their worldview no favors longterm. These kids don’t become liberal because of library books and school courses — this isn’t 1985 — but because they inevitably realize they were lied to, that their rightwing parents are hypocritical and hopelessly out-of-touch, if not outright bigoted.

    Often, prohibition does not work and actually backfires. But I guess playing pretend is easier for some center-right ideologues than engaging with reality as it is, and talking to their kids about what they’re seeing and hearing.

  13. EddieInCA says:

    There are plenty of articles with data about the brain drain happening in Florida

    The educated and driven are fleeing the state, being replaced by MAGA in more self-sorting.

    The downside for DeSantis is that his policies are killing Florida tourism.

  14. Franklin says:

    I think to address Dr Joyner’s sympathy towards protecting elementary kids – I think we can find agreement that there can be some age-appropriate teaching about relationships. I’m not an expert on what that instruction would be at each stage, but humans are sexual almost from the start. The Oedipus complex can occur in the 3-5 year-old range, and as others are attesting here, some people had an inkling of their orientation very early. Heck, we had a feeling about my nephew before he was school age, despite his upbringing, and 20 years later it is confirmed that he is not even close to heterosexual.

    Also, as someone who went through the confusion and pain of my ex-wife discovering she was gay in her mid 40s, after 20 years of marriage and 3 kids, I think it’s great that young people are exploring the possibilities of who they are. Not that everyone will figure it out quickly, but that it will be on their radar (no pun intended).

  15. Kazzy says:

    “I’m more sympathetic than most OTB readers to the arguments for shielding elementary-age children from these sensitive topics, as many states have done in recent years.”

    Well, you shouldn’t be. I have a bachelors and masters in early childhood/elementary ed. These are only sensitive topics because we talk about them so little and so poorly. A well-developed health and human development curriculum is necessary to understand how humans exist. If you think that discussing sexual orientation, using appropriate terminology to label body parts, and the other topics targeted by such legislation is good for children… well, you’re wrong.

  16. Kazzy says:

    @drj: Yep.

    I’ve taught kids who had same sex parents. They would talk about Daddy and Poppa or Daddy This and Daddy That or Mommy and NeeNee. Under these laws, as a teacher I could not talk to these children about their parents or answer the inevitable questions that arise from other kids about why their classmates have two moms or two dads. I’d have to leave the 4- and 5-year-olds to make sense of this without any adult guidance or support. Lovely.

    I’ve also worked with a student who was transgender (this was in 2nd grade). At the time, he chose not to be out to his all-male camp group but he chose to change in front of them, albeit with a towel covering himself. His parents spoke about the risk this ran of him outing himself and he opted to continue because he wanted to do what everyone else was doing and was ready to accept if his fellow campers learned this about him. I was given training to support him in such an event (it never did arise) but under these laws, I’d have had to leave him to handle all that on his own. At 7-years-old. Lovely.

    Hell, two years ago I read my kids a book called “Rainbow Boy.” The book was not about sexual orientation or gender identity. It was about a boy who hated the age-old question “What’s your favorite color?” because he didn’t have just one favorite color. There are few books that my students have better identified. “WE’RE ALLOWED TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE FAVORITE COLOR AND OUR FAVORITE COLORS CAN CHANGE!” So it was about the power of self-identification but with regards to favorite colors. Within the book, the boy talks about all his favorite colors and what he likes about them. He loves to play with his orange basketball and dance in his pink tutu. UH OH! So even though this book would not actually violate any of these laws, all it would take is a 4-year-old going home and saying, “We read a book called ‘Rainbow Boy’ and it has a boy in a pink tutu in it,” to the wrong parent and I could potentially be in danger under this law.

    This is what these laws do. They don’t protect kids. They make the already-hard work of teaching kids even harder so that parents who are willfully ignorant can continue to be so while putting real kids at risk.

  17. Kurtz says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’d qualify the “this stuff doesn’t wait” a bit. Some queer people don’t figure themselves out until later and the “I knew it at age 5” narrative can be a big obstacle because they get treated as fake for having their “ohhhhhh…..” moment later in life

    Not arguing with you. But treated as fake by whom?

    There was a qualifier that crossed my mind. One of the reasons, though by no means the only one, for inner-conflict is heteronormativity in general as well as familial, religious, and social bonds.

  18. gVOR10 says:


    so that parents who are willfully ignorant can continue to be

    I see anecdotal indications that many, maybe most, of the anti-whatever in education zealots aren’t parents.

    And thank you for your informed comments.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    These are only sensitive topics because we talk about them so little and so poorly.

    Sure, but can’t be making people uncomfortable–and that issue is part of the reason parents wanted to pass such topics off to the schools in the first place. 🙁

  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have a friend who grew up in a very conservative, religious family who vividly describes how isolated her parents, and their community strive to make their children. “You just have no chance of seeing or hearing about anything else until you are an adult. And some of my friends – even as an adult they can’t process it.”

    She is really mad about the education initiatives in FL.

  21. Stormy Dragon says:


    But treated as fake by whom?

    Well, there’s four groups I’ve seen doing it most, each with different motivations:
    1. Anti-queer right wing people. By adhering to a very limited narrative on how people who are queer become aware of it, any queer person who doesn’t fit that narrative can be targeted while pretending to support “the real” queer people.
    2. Supposed-ally left wing non-queer people who feel a sense of ownership over the queer community and express that by trying to play border guard on who is allowed to claim the identity
    3. More assimilationist members of queer community. The people who take longer are often the ones who fit multiple queer identities or who have more “in-between” identities (e.g. bisexual, aro-ace, non-binary, etc.) and some people are uncomfortable with the messiness that comes along when things aren’t fit into strict this-or-that binaries
    4. Younger queer people. While it’s great that people born today are more likely to figure it out early because they have both the language and support to do so, they sometimes get a bit dismissive of older queer people who had a much harder time figuring it all out because they didn’t have the language or support to understand themselves yet and didn’t get there until adulthood or even middle age.

  22. Michael Cain says:


    There are plenty of articles with data about the brain drain happening in Florida

    It seems like in the long run — think 20 years — accreditation is going to bite them in the butt. Although I’m sure the thought that they wind up with a regional accreditation system much of the rest of the country won’t accept doesn’t bother the Republicans.

  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I recall learning about the term “gold star lesbian” (apparently “gold star gay” is a thing, too). It makes me sad to see that even among the oppressed there is this sort of policing and one-upmanship, but it’s also way too human.

  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    @EddieInCA: I like this story, which makes me wary of it. It’s a bit too much like someone telling me what I want to hear. Also, there are so, so many stories about people leaving California in droves (don’t I wish!) that I’m a bit suspicious of how much and how often.

  25. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Let me stress I’m not saying kids figuring out their queer is a bad thing, it makes me so happy I almost tear up every time I see a securely out queer kid. I just don’t like the narrative that all queer people knew from that young

    I certainly didn’t!

  26. DrDaveT says:

    In other Florida news, the state has now ruled that all subatomic particles must have either a positive or negative charge. Neutrons and neutrinos will no longer be permitted in Florida, and public schools will not mention their existence in the approved science curriculum. Discussion of strange quarks is now a felony.

  27. Dutchgirl says:

    Shield kids from what? My daughter’s bestie has 2 moms, many of my friends are lgbtqia+, our previous minister is queer. Daughter knows love and intimate connection between adults has variety. How terrible for her.

  28. Gustopher says:

    I don’t see the problem here. They will just replace AP Psychology with a college level phrenology class designed by Prager U.

    There’s a modest expense of calipers, but that can be passed on to the parents.

  29. Gustopher says:

    Kids learn words like faggot, gay, queer, pansy, dyke, sissy and tranny at a very early age. Along with nigger, spick, wetback, and the like.

    Ugly shit.

    You don’t protect children by not teaching them “sensitive” topics, you are just making sure that they learn the worst shit first.

  30. Neil Hudelson says:

    shielding elementary-age children from these sensitive topics

    I’m curious, James, when your children were exposed to Sex Ed in school, if you remember? I do not know what Virginia’s standards are, and a very cursory google search wasn’t helpful. However, I remembered pretty clearly my first sex-ed class occurring in 5th grade, at the very least I was absolutely certain it took place in elementary school, so at least by 6th grade. I was wrong–Indiana starts teaching initial sex ed topics, including a discussion of genitalia, puberty, changes to the body, and the concept of hormones (so, sexual desire), in 4th grade.

  31. anjin-san says:

    We had sex ed starting in the 6th grade – this was over 50 years ago. One part of my brain asks “do 4th graders really need sex ed?” Then when I think about it for a moment the answer is “given the infinitely greater amount of information that a 4th grader is exposed to today, yes.”

    In 1970, we had no internet and six TV channels. There were the Playboy magazines that a lot of fathers had stashed somewhere. That’s about all the information we had access to.

  32. Scott says:

    @anjin-san: For me it was 7th grade (1967). In the evening. I remember it as basic reproductive anatomy 101.

    As for the Playboys, my older brother hid my Dad’s Playboys in my closet so he wouldn’t get caught. Mom didn’t approve of the Playboy subscription and she ran the household books so that subscription mysteriously never got renewed.

    My parents dealt with sex education in a stealthy way. They put an excellent book on the library shelf in the den knowing we would find it and read it.

  33. Joe says:

    @Neil Hudelson: 5ht grade, Catholic school including nuns. They separated the boys and the girls and showed the boys the boys’ movie and showed the girls the girls’ movie. Then they had us switch classrooms to see the other’s movie. We also all got to watch a movie called Skater Dater, dealing with a young boy’s emerging feelings about girls (one in particular) and how those feelings alienate his skating buddies. That was a pretty informative day.

  34. @EdB: Let me add, as a cisgender male, I remember being aware of my sexual orientation (not that I knew what that meant at the time) when I was 5 years old.

    I note this simply to agree with your basic point.

    All of this is about human behavior, which is complicated and does not adhere to the same simplistic scale.

  35. steve says:

    We had no sex ed when I was growing up in rural Indiana and Wisconsin. It was being talked about so our church, evangelical, decided to do sex ed in a Christian way. We boys were told that we would want to have sex but we shouldn’t ask the girls for sex and wait until marriage. The girls were told they should not want to have sex and say no if the boys asked, waiting until marriage. This worked great until the Navy sent me to Philly as my first duty station and on my first date the girl asked if I wanted to go back to her place for sex. This was off script so I had to improvise, predictably.


  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @steve: I was put “in charge” of groups of seniors at the high school I was teaching at on prom nite. My task was to show them the drunk driving movie and then to “advise” them not to have sex with their prom date (this was just before I left for Korea by a year or two so mid-2000s). I really hated this particular gig, so what I did with my charges is acknowledge that I understood that I wasn’t anybody’s dad and nobody cared what I thought, but I still had advice for them. It was that passion is fleeting, true love may last a lifetime–but hadn’t for me (I was divorced by then), but that in either case, child support in their jurisdiction could well extend to age 25 because of a recent change in state law.

    They were also the groups that I suggested should stand up for their right to drive if in a group of intoxicated individuals because the statistically safe seat in a car driven by a drunk is the one with the steering wheel. “If somebody gets to live, it might as well be you.” (And I still got invited back for the same gig on prom nite the following year. :-X)

  37. Grewgills says:

    Middle school kids ask their teachers and look to their teachers for support (directly and indirectly) when they are figuring out their sexuality and gender issues. At least they do if they trust their teachers. I have somewhat regularly had kids ask me some variation of, ”If I was gay would you still like me?” I don’t think I could teach somewhere that giving a supportive and affirming answer would cost me my job or worse. That some people think it would be better for that kid’s teacher to say something along the lines of “I can’t talk to you about that” or worse is supporting emotional abuse of kids at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

  38. DrDaveT says:


    My parents dealt with sex education in a stealthy way. They put an excellent book on the library shelf in the den knowing we would find it and read it.

    I don’t know how old you are, but for me that book was Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask and my parents did likewise.

    …which didn’t prevent me from laughing myself sick watching the Woody Allen movie with the same title, some years later.

  39. de stijl says:

    Why did schools require public nudity? That public shower practice was extremely weird, bizarre, Spartan, authoritarian.

    In my day public showering was expected. It was basically required. No one wanted to, but it was essentially enforced from on high as a rite of passage. If you are in 7th grade PE on up you will shower naked with your peers. This will continue until you graduate.

    What gd purpose did that serve? Why was the shower room an open room, it is as open invitation to ridicule, bullying, abuse. Wtf were they thinking?

    Please tell me high school PE and team sports do not use the enforced public shower concept anymore. That was creepy and ritualistic naked humiliation. Why would a school administration do that to kids? That was incredibly fucked up.

    That was fucked up spartanesque, authoritarian body challenge enforced nudity on teens. Be nude in front of your peers or you fail. Our shower room was a tiled rectangular room with a bunch of shower heads every four feet on the walls. No stalls, no walls, bare open room.

    Please, for all that is good, tell me that that ritual humiliation does not happen still today.

    I was the youngest in my class. I made the cut-off by a few hours. I entered puberty later than almost everyone in my cohort and everyone knew because of enforced public showers.

    If that practice still exists today I will freak out. That is not cool, not acceptable.

  40. anjin-san says:

    @de stijl:

    Roger that. I went to a jr. high school, grades 7-9. When I started 7th grade, I was 12, basically still a little boy. Hitting the showers with guys that had sideburns already was not great for an ego that was pretty fragile at the time anyway.

  41. Jax says:

    @DrDaveT: Ha!!! That’s the book my parents very craftily left on the living room bookshelf knowing I’d find it, too.