Orange County students voice concerns about new guidelines restricting research surveys

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Some Orange County Public Schools students and parents are speaking out about updated guidelines for AP Research projects.


The school district deemed some research topics too controversial for student surveys.

As we first reported Monday, 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.

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

Some students, who have already spent weeks researching those topics, now have to switch gears.

One Boone High School Senior taking AP research says the quality of her project will be impacted.

Nichola Wells is studying how stereotypes affect women in STEM and was one of a handful of students present at Tuesday’s board meeting who planned on speaking.

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“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 conclusions is going to hurt,” said Wells.

In a letter sent out Tuesday, the district told school board members there’s uncertainty about whether student surveys could be considered classroom instruction.

This comes after the state expanded a ban on teaching gender and sexual orientation back in April.

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“The legal concern is what could be considered “classroom instruction” and district-sponsored surveys. We are currently reviewing the survey process to determine the district’s role and culpability to the student’s research questions,” said an OCPS representative in the letter to the board members.

According to that letter, Orange County Public Schools is working on a solution allowing students to explore topics that interest them while also working within state statutes.

A spokesperson for the College Board also confirmed, “We are looking into this communication and its potential impacts on student learning and research projects connected to AP Courses and AP Capstone.”

As of 6:30 pm on Tuesday, the school board meeting was ongoing and students had not had a chance to meet board members.

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