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Florida appears to reverse effort to bar AP Psychology's LGBTQ content

The College Board accused Florida last week of effectively banning AP Psychology classes due to their sexuality and gender content.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. at a press conference alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis in Miami on May 9, 2023.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. at a news conference alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis in Miami on May 9.Rebecca Blackwell / AP file

Florida and the College Board appear to have come to a resolution over the inclusion of LGBTQ topics in the state’s Advanced Placement Psychology classes. The resolve came a day after the education nonprofit said the state "effectively banned" the course because of its content about sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a letter shared with school superintendents Friday, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said the department "is not discouraging districts from teaching AP Psychology."

"In fact, the Department believes that AP Psychology can be taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate and the course remains listed in our course catalog," Diaz wrote.

In a statement shared with NBC News on Monday, the College Board —?which administers the SAT and college-level classes to high school students — responded to the Florida Department of Education's new guidance with a mix of hope and skepticism.

"While district superintendents continue to seek additional clarity from the department, we note the clear guidance that, 'AP Psychology may be taught in its entirety,'" the statement read. "We hope now that Florida teachers will be able to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year."

The College Board describes the course’s LGBTQ content as teachings on “how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.”

In its statement Thursday, the College Board said the Florida Education Department had "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." Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, or what critics have dubbed the "Don’t Say Gay" law, restricts the instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s classrooms.

When contacted by NBC News on Thursday, the department denied that it had banned the course, though it did not answer questions on whether it tried to restrict the course's LGBTQ content.

Florida's so-called Don't Say Gay law was signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is running for president.

The law initially prohibited “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards” in public and charter schools.

But DeSantis doubled down this year, signing a measure into law?expanding?the restrictions to explicitly include students through eighth grade. The newer version of the law also restricts reproductive health education in sixth through 12th grade.

Speaking with reporters Friday, DeSantis predicted that the AP Psychology course will “end up being offered.”