State Of Affairs

DeSantis’s AP Psychology Ban: The “Don’t Say Gay” Successor You Were Warned About

· Updated on October 4, 2023

In the latest development of the Republican culture war against the LGBTQ+ community, Florida has now managed to effectively ban the teaching of AP Psychology in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration has barred the teaching of psychology classes that include any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. This led Florida to demand the removal of the AP Psychology course’s section on gender and sexual orientation, something that the College Board (which oversees the AP courses) declined to do, meaning that the course is no longer available to Florida students.

Both the motivations and the effects of DeSantis’ latest move are abhorrent, but also a predictable next step that was always going to be the end goal. In March of 2022, DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a piece of legislation that aimed to remove any teaching or discussion of LGBTQ+ identities for grades K-3. By April 2023 that law intended to “protect” small children had been expanded to include K-12 while the vagaries of the bill’s wording left many unsure how to abide by it and thus led to teachers and libraries over-censoring themselves to avoid rebuke.

The LGBTQ+ community isn’t the only one with their existence being removed from Florida curricula, with the DeSantis administration blocking the AP course on African American Studies in January 2023. With moves to remove all uses of words like “diversity” from public offices and schools, another ban on an AP course should hardly be considered a surprise at this point.

While some might think that the AP course could continue without the module, the College Board put out a statement to clarify why it would not be removing the section on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[Florida] 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.

Read the College Board’s full statement here

The statement from the College Board highlights 3 key takeaways here:

  1. The sexual orientation and gender identity section of the course is in no way new – it has not been added recently in some form of “woke agenda” that DeSantis wants to fight against.
  2. Removing the section for Florida would take Florida off of equal footing with tests given in the rest of the country.
  3. Florida’s actions are removing choice from parents and students alike by forcing the removal of an optional course.

Driven by DeSantis’ war against the LGBTQ+ community and any education about their existence, this latest move is having huge repercussions for students in Florida. To get an “on the ground” feel for the effects of this move, INTO spoke with Zander Moricz, the executive director for Social Equity Through Education Alliance (SEE), a plaintiff in the case against “Don’t Say Gay,” and (crucially) a recent graduate from a Florida High School in Sarasota County.


Florida’s government is attempting to eliminate trans and queer people from life. They’re trying to eliminate queer and trans people from society. Strategically, the most effective way to do that is to start with young people to start with the incoming generation and ensure that the people who will soon occupy positions of power and to ensure that the people who will make up the majority of the electorate believe what you want them to believe.

And so our government is attempting to ensure that young people in Florida have no opportunity to learn about queer people and trans people, to learn about each other, and to develop community.

This was an immediate problem. My younger brother, for example, was enrolled and taking AP Psychology next year. I was just in high school, and I took AP Psychology. It is one of the most popular AP courses because, for one, it is one of the most interesting and fun AP courses, but two, it is one of the most easy-to-understand courses: it is an entryway AP course. So, [DeSantis], in canceling AP Psychology, is canceling one of the most popular and helpful and advanced courses in the state.

If people are thinking about trying to take more advanced courses, one of the first AP courses that will always be recommended to students is AP Psychology, because a lot of the readings, a lot of the experiments, a lot of the things that you will go over are more digestible and are in a format that is similar to other courses that are not AP. And so this is also destroying opportunities for a lot of people who might be trying to better themselves or trying to take more academically rigorous courses.

And that’s going to harm not only queer and trans students, but any students who want to get into good colleges, students who want to compete with students from other states, and students who maybe want to be psychologists when they grow up.

Governor DeSantis is trying to show us that “Oh, AP Psychology has become bad because it incorporates queer and trans perspectives.” But in reality, what people are seeing is that queer and trans perspectives have always been so ingrained and are so fundamental in almost every element of American and global life, that attempting to erase queerness, attempting to not acknowledge the existence of queer and trans people is not a viable choice, it is no longer a political strategy that is going to work.

As Zander points out, this is causing DeSantis’ strategy to falter, and in part that’s because it unmasks the true intentions that many of us suspected a long time ago. The initial “Don’t Say Gay” bill used the same pearl-clutching logic that had been used against the LGBTQ+ community for decades, including in the propaganda promoting bathroom bans for trans people: “Think of the children.” But when it comes to AP classes, these people aren’t children. Most AP students will be 16-18. These are people getting ready for college and the wider world. The existence of LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t be some evil secret kept from children, but even for those who think otherwise, it’s clear that students voluntarily signing up for AP courses should have the critical thinking to assess information about the world they live in, regardless of DeSantis’ attempt to silence it all, and if they don’t then that is a different problem with the school system that needs to be addressed.


We told you a year and a half ago that he would abuse this bill, we told you a year and a half ago that he would expand this bill to high schoolers and oppress them. And now he is, and now it’s affecting the quality of education of straight students whose parents maybe wouldn’t have cared a month or two ago. And it is just problematic, because he’s not adding anything. And so this just looks like DeSantis is fumbling around and trying to find a win. He’s looking back at all the things that he found to have been successful, and he’s just repeating them. But it isn’t working. This time it isn’t impactful, it isn’t new, it isn’t beneficial, so it just seems like he’s panicking and trying to find a new way to make a headline.

Ultimately, the whole farce around AP Psychology in Florida will have massive impacts on students who simply want to learn. When it comes to taking a lesson from this event, however, there are two things to bear in mind.

First: Ron DeSantis would be a nightmare for minority communities and the country as a whole if he were to be successful in his presidential bid. The Republican party has made it clear that their goal in this election cycle is to curry favor with their base by burning the LGBTQ+ community to the ground, and DeSantis is fast becoming the face of that effort.

Second, and perhaps a more actionable element: we cannot afford to ignore even the most milquetoast bills. Republicans are clearly going to use these seemingly small bills wrapped in concern for the children as a way to gain a foothold and grow their position to something truly disastrous. Once they have an element in place, it has the opportunity to snowball and affect the lives of huge numbers of people.♦

If you are a student in Florida who is being denied AP Psychology classes: SEE previously built a program that provided AP-level African American Studies credits and they are looking to do the same with Psychology. It is still early days, but watch the alliance for news on potential developments that might help.

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