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Florida schools roundup: Shooting video release, walkout, new bills and more

School shooting video: A circuit court judge rules that video taken outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14 that killed 17 people must be made public. Several news organizations had sued the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the school board for refusing to release the video, arguing that it was crucial in analyzing law enforcement’s response. The judge ruled that prosecutors didn’t prove how releasing the video could hamper the ongoing investigation, but delayed the release until Thursday to give the sheriff and school board a chance to appeal. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald.

Walkout Wednesday: At least 2,500 U.S. schools expect students to stage a walkout Wednesday to protest the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14 and call for stricter controls on guns. The walkouts are expected to start at 10 a.m. and, in many cases, last 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 murdered victims. Sun-Sentinel. Students around the state plan to participate in the walkout, and schools are deciding how they will deal with it. Fort Myers News-Press. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Northwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine Record. The 74. Six things to know about the National Student Walkout. Education Week. About 500,000 people are expected to congregate in Washington, D.C., March 24 in the March For Our Lives rally calling for school safety and stricter gun laws, and other rallies will be held in cities around the country, including Parkland. Sun-Sentinel.

New education bills: The school safety bill and the K-12 and higher education bills got most of the attention, but other education-related bills also were passed in the Legislature. Here are some of them. Gradebook. Private schools that accept state scholarship students will have some new rules to follow under the new education bill, H.B. 7055. The state will now be permitted to visit all private schools, starting in 2019, and provisions will make it harder for those schools to hide criminal convictions of owners or file phony fire inspection reports. But they’ll still be able to hire teachers without college degrees. Orlando Sentinel. H.B. 7055 also boosts school construction funding for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. News Service of Florida. The Legislature created a scholarship program to help bullied students move to private schools. It’s the first program of its kind in the United States. Will it start a national trend? TrustED. U.S. News & World Report. Here’s a recap of the biggest issues in the Legislature this year, as well as some of the bills that passed and failed. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. News Service of Florida.

Special education spending: The Broward County School Board will consider a proposal to double the number of teachers devoted to education special-needs students, at a cost of about $40 million. Accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was a special-needs student. At a town hall meeting Monday, students, teachers and parents call for a boost in school mental health services. Sun-Sentinel.

School safety plans: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defends President Trump’s plan to improve school safety, but says having a person with a gun in every classroom “wouldn’t be appropriate.” Trump’s plan calls for federal training for teachers and other school personnel to carry guns in schools and for hardening schools, but not for raising the legal age limit to buy guns. DeVos will lead a commission to look into ways to cut down on school violence. Politico Florida. The new policy also wants to end an Obama administration rule that tried to address racial disparities in school discipline. Politico Florida. Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton will meet with the sheriff and the school board to discuss whether school employees should be armed, as the new state law allows. Naples Daily News. Sarasota school officials say every option is open to implement the state law aimed at protecting schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. South Woods Elementary in St. Johns County triples its on-site counseling capacity to deal with students’ mental health needs. St. Augustine Record.

Busted budget: Pinellas County School Superintendent Mike Grego joins the growing chorus of school superintendents complaining about the just-signed state budget, saying it will leave his district with a deficit. Pinellas is among those larger districts that will receive less than the average $101.50 per student increase from the state, and Grego says putting a resource officer in every school would cost Pinellas up to $8 million. He estimates the district is getting an increase of just 47 cents per student that can be spent as the district chooses. Gradebook.

Intervening in lawsuit: Four charter schools and three charter parents are asking a Leon County court to let them help the state defend the 2017 education bill, H.B. 7069, against a lawsuit filed by 14 school districts. The districts say portions of the bill that require them to share property tax revenue with charter schools and give control over Title I funds to schools rather than districts are unconstitutional. redefinED.

Data breach: As many as 50,000 Leon County students and teachers may have had sensitive personal information stolen in a security breach of the Florida Virtual School, says Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “At the end of the day, Florida Virtual School left their server wide open for intruders to access,” says Hanna. “They are 100 percent responsible for this theft.” Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WCTV.

School may be closed: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider a proposal this week to close the Eagles Arts Academy charter school in Wellington. Superintendent Robert Avossa says the school is in “deteriorating financial condition” brought on by the executive director’s financial mismanagement and excessive spending on administrative salaries. If the board agrees with Avossa, the school would close in June after four years in operation, leaving 450 students to find another school by August. Palm Beach Post.

School board elections: Patty Ball Thomas, an assistant professor at Florida A&M University, is running for the District 1 seat on the Leon County School Board. Alva Striplin is the incumbent, and is running for re-election. Also running is district administrator Ricky Bell. WFSU.

Lawsuit against district: A Hillsborough County circuit judge hears arguments in a lawsuit filed against the school district by a fired administrator. Stephanie Woodford says she was fired for refusing to go along with acts of corruption by other school officials. The district is arguing the suit should be dismissed because Woodford did not first file her complaint with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. Gradebook.

Teacher arrested: A Clay County teacher is arrested and accused of attacking a woman at a baseball practice. Deputies say Terry Lee Coursey, 37, a teacher at Plantation Oaks Elementary School in Orange Park, attacked the woman after she said Coursey’s shorts were too short for a kid’s event. WJAX.

School threats: A 23-year-old man is arrested for allegedly leaving a threatening note at Fleming Island High School in Clay County. Charles Gene Waxler Jr. is accused of false report of a bomb, written threat to do bodily harm and trespassing on school grounds. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. Bradenton Southeast High School goes into lockdown over a threat posted on a bathroom wall. Bradenton Herald.

Guns at schools: Deputies say a kindergarten student knowingly put his father’s loaded handgun into his backpack and took it into his class at Somerset Academy Lakes charter school last week. The student originally had told authorities he didn’t know how the gun got into the backpack. Palm Beach Post.

Suspensions possible: Several students face suspension after attacking a 13-year-old girl in the cafeteria at the ASPIRA Raul Arnaldo Martinez Charter School in North Miami. The mother of the beaten girl wants the attackers arrested. WPLG.

Opinions on schools: Florida leaders finally took some action on guns. While the specifics can be nitpicked, the principle is important. Florida Times-Union. School boards and administrators should honor student activism and not discipline their students for finding their voices in a healthy debate. These protests are not disruptive to the learning environment – they are the learning environment. Howard Simon, Tallahassee Democrat. The Stoneman Douglas High School students won a hard-fought victory last week when Gov. Rick Scott signed the school safety bill. But as long as the NRA haunts the halls of Tallahassee, will those gun reforms still be around in the years ahead? Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. Legislators have robbed education to pay for school safety. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. Here are five areas where voters should make clear to the Constitution Revision Commission that they expect better. Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: The Association of Florida Teaching Artists gets a state grant to teach minority students to become teaching artists. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Robotics students at the Montverde Academy donate a drone to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff