Orange County Schools guidelines restrict AP students surveying on ‘controversial topics’

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County AP Research students cannot survey people on topics the school district has labeled controversial in updated guidelines.


According to a copy of the updated rules dated June 29, 2023, survey questions that explore-- LGBTQ+, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, body image, and racial and gender stereotypes-- will be rejected.

The guidelines affect students in AP Research. It’s part of the AP Capstone Diploma Program, a two-year program based on two College Board courses-- AP Seminar and AP Research.

Some students and teachers say they first received the guidelines this past week.

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Channel 9 spoke to students who expressed the guidelines regulating their conversations with fellow students on social issues.

“The guidelines were very obviously discriminatory with all the topics that were banned,” said Nichola Wells, a senior at Boone High School.

Wells says she’s been an advocate for women in STEM, but she’s questioned why more women are outside the field. So, at the beginning of this semester, Wells says she chose to dig into the topic for her AP Research project.

“I wanted to study how stereotype threat impacts the gender confidence gap in physics,” Well said.

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But, seven weeks into research, Wells learned she couldn’t survey students as part of her project because of Orange County School guidelines. Her survey question on gender stereotypes would be rejected.

“I didn’t think that (the topic) should be controversial in any way. Because it basically is trying to ensure that women have equality in important subjects,” Wells said.

Orange County Public Schools released a statement to Channel 9, saying in part that guidelines were “adjusted” to meet legislation.

“OCPS is not forbidding students from doing their research project on the topics; however, the surveys that could be distributed to other students cannot have the topics outlined per various legislation and guidelines.”

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The school district did not point to any specific laws.

Wells and some other students say they must choose different topics to survey fellow students. Wells says she was given a second option not to change her topic, but instead of surveying students--solely analyze media to reach a conclusion.

“I think that having a fear that my research project might not be approved, or redacting certain questions that I think would be necessary to reach my conclusion, is going to hurt,” Wells said.

Channel 9 contacted the College Board Monday evening for comment on the guidelines.

Orange County School Board is set to meet Tuesday afternoon.

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Students and parents tell Channel 9 they plan to speak in front of the School Board during public comment—making their arguments on why they believe the guidelines should be changed.

Wells says she’s speaking up for herself and other students who plan to take AP Research.

Boone High sophomore Jack Hayes is in the AP Seminar and plans to take AP Research next. He says he’s “weary” of what classes he gets excited to take because of changes in school guidelines and new state laws.

“Like I was excited for AP Psychology, and then that’s gone,” Hayes said. “And then I was excited for AP research because I get to research things. And now we’re cracking down on the things that I can research about.”

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