Florida schools roundup: Culture of leniency, school security, pre-K and more

A district’s discipline: The Broward County School District has developed a culture of leniency that allows students to commit what could be considered criminal offenses with little or no punishment and treats students as first-time offenders even if it’s their 10th offense for the same thing, according to discipline records and people familiar with the process. The emphasis on promoting punishment alternatives, known as the Promise program, provides a public relations boost with fewer arrests, expulsions and suspensions for misbehaving students, but has led to a message that “the students are untouchable. Habitual negative behavior means nothing anymore,” according to notes from a recent faculty meeting. Sun-Sentinel. The district’s response to the siege it’s been under for the shooting and the discipline problems has been to try to withhold information and to release statements that are later shown to be incorrect. Superintendent Robert Runcie has even blocked parents from his Twitter account, saying he won’t tolerate “profanity, hate speech or false information.” Sun-Sentinel.

School security: With a deadline approaching and under financial pressure, the Pinellas County School District is now planning to hire armed guards for some positions as a “stopgap measure” to provide security to all schools. Some school board members say they prefer school resource officers, but that Superintendent Michael Grego’s latest plan is understandable as a temporary solution. Tampa Bay Times. Volusia County officials say the school district and sheriff need to develop a plan on school safety before the county commits any money to help pay for it. The agencies meet today to discuss how to proceed to get an armed officer in schools before they reopen in August. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Two months after it passed, the state’s gun reform law is still a focus of debates in school districts. WFSU. WUSF.

Student preparedness: About 45 percent of the students in the state’s voluntary pre-K program students are not ready for kindergarten, according to a report from the state’s Office of Early Learning. The report also concludes that about 42 percent of the state’s VPK providers should be put on probation for having fewer than 60 percent of their students pass the state’s readiness test, but the office is asking for one more grace year before implementing that provision. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School loses scholarships: The Agape Christian Academy of Pine Hills and the people who run it have been banned from receiving state scholarship money for 10 years for its “ongoing noncompliance” with state rules. The school has missed payments to a state-mandated assessment program that was ordered by state officials after the school faked fire inspection reports. Officials say the school will likely close without the money from the state’s scholarship programs for low-income students and those with disabilities, since nearly all 115 students receive money from the programs. Orlando Sentinel.

H.B. 7069 challenge: The state’s lawyers are arguing before the Florida Supreme Court that the Legislature’s annual readoption of statutes has rendered a lawsuit against the 2017 education bill, H.B. 7069, moot. School districts contend in their lawsuit that the law is unconstitutional because it deals with more than one subject. But Florida law states: “Once reenacted as a portion of the Florida Statutes, a statute is no longer subject to challenge on the ground that it violates the single subject requirement of s. 6, Art. III of the State Constitution.” Gradebook.

Dual enrollment restrictions: Instructors at the Pine View School in Osprey, just named Florida’s best high school by U.S. News & World Report, will no longer be allowed to offer students dual enrollment classes on campus. Officials at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, disqualified the school because its students were scoring higher when teachers received exams earlier than the day of the tests and because dual enrollment classes were not being clearly reported on student transcripts. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher recruiting: Even though St. Johns County is the top-rated school district in the state, its officials say low salaries are making it difficult to recruit new teachers. The average teacher in St. Johns makes $46,707 a year, which is below the state average of $47,267. And Florida ranks 45th among the states, paying teachers about $12,000 less than the national average of $59,660. “In the end, we’re trying to get the best teachers to come and to stay in the career, and this makes it tough,” says Superintendent Tim Forson. St. Augustine Record.

Graduation behavior rules: After a University of Florida marshal was criticized for aggressively pushing preening graduating students across the stage, schools and universities are tightening their procedures to avoid a similar scene during their ceremonies. Miami Herald.

Superintendent candidates: The five candidates for the Duval County school superintendent’s job tell a focus group and audience Saturday that they intend to collaborate with colleagues and get input from the community before making decisions that affect the district’s 128,000 students. The school board is expected to choose finalists Monday, and the new superintendent Friday. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Charter schools: A Pasco County charter school is asking the school board to rework its contract so it can accept up to 20 percent more students. Classical Preparatory, which focuses on classics and teaches Latin, has a contract that allows it to take up to 714 students. It wants to bump that number to 860 because of demand. Gradebook. Bok Academy North hopes to replicate the success of its parent, Bok Academy, when it opens in August in Lake Wales. The school board votes on the charter school application in June, but it has already gotten the public approval of Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd and six of the seven board members. Lakeland Ledger.

District survey results: The Hillsborough County School District releases several surveys, including one of teachers, administrators and other professional personnel that expresses concerns about time pressures on teachers, student conduct and technology. Gradebook.

Yearbook page redone: A page in the Escambia High School yearbook detailing the origin of the school and its history on race relations is reworked after the principal determined the student had plagiarized the material. The student, Sasha Slack, says she thinks the page was redone because the principal, Frank Murphy, was “trying to change the history of Escambia High School because they’re too ashamed to admit that our school was founded as an all-white school.” Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher honored: Jeannine Meis, a history teacher at Leon High School, is nominated by the Museum of Florida History for a Harris History Teacher Award that goes to one U.S. high school teacher and one middle school teacher. Tallahassee Democrat.

A jungle-themed prom: A caged tiger, a lemur, two macaws and an African fennec fox were brought in for a jungle-themed prom last week at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami. Some students and parents from the all-boys private school complain that it was an example of animal abuse. School officials say they had permission from the venue and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Associated Press.

Teacher’s aide arrested: A 23-year-old teacher’s assistant at the Westside K-8 School in Kissimmee is arrested and charged with sexual battery on a 16-year-old special-needs 7th-grader at the school. Miralys Agosto-England resigned last week. Orlando Sentinel. Spectrum News 13. WKMG.

Parental assault at school: A Miami-Dade police officer is charged with beating his 14-year-old daughter in the office at Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy as school employees sat a few feet away and did nothing to intervene. The daughter had been sent to the office, and her father called, after she “disrespected a teacher.” Miami Herald.

Coach suspended: An assistant coach on the Chiles High School football team is suspended for using a racial slur about a player’s girlfriend in a Snapchat post. Trey Pettis, who is a paraprofessional at the school, is suspended without pay for five days and can’t coach the rest of this school year. If he hopes to coach next year, he must first apologize to the team, the player and his girlfriend and their parents, meet weekly with a mentor and attend ethics training classes. Tallahassee Democrat.

Coach thrown off campus: Wendell Faison, an after-school program director for the Manatee Boys & Girls Club who was fired for making sexually suggestive remarks to a Southeast High School student in April, was later rehired as volunteer football coach by principal Rosa Faison, his wife. District officials have again ordered Wendell Faison to stay off campus, and are investigating Rosa Faison for a possible conflict of interest for ordering coaches to have their athletes and cheerleaders enroll in the after-school program operated by her husband. Bradenton Herald.

Students arrested: A student is arrested after making threats against Sebring High School in Highlands County. WFLA. A 15-year-old student is arrested for threatening others with a knife in the Miami Edison Senior High School cafeteria. WPLG. Miami Herald. A 16-year-old student is arrested or threatening to “shoot up” East Lee County High School. Fort Myers News-Press. An Electa Arcotte Lee Magnet Middle School student is arrested after allegedly kicking a teacher, according to Manatee sheriff’s deputies. Bradenton Herald.

Gun found at school: Two days after a woman with a gun was arrested on the campus of Jacksonville’s Ribault High School, another loaded handgun is found outside a school building. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: Unlike Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, school districts across Florida don’t see charter schools as “someone else’s business.” Travis Pillow, redefinED. Eliminating access to state standardized testing alternatives while raising the bar for passing is not good for students, not good for families, not good for communities and not good for Florida. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Eight documentaries created by students at Winter Park High School win awards in the annual C-SPAN StudentCam competition. This year, students chose a provision of the U.S. Constitution and created a video explaining why it’s important to them. Orange Observer. Eight students from Duval County schools win High Potential Youth Recognition Awards from the University of North Florida for their excellence as African-American scholars. Florida Times-Union. The Marion County School District is teaming with the Humane Society to have a bus full of dogs and cats visit schools to promote reading and the humane treatment of animals. Ocala Star-Banner. The Kiwanis Club of Panama City raises money to build “reading oasis” rooms at four Bay County elementary schools. Panama City News Herald. The Astatula Elementary School robotics team finishes ninth in its division in the 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff