Florida schools roundup: Transgender fight, new boards, rule changes and more

Transgender fight: Dozens of Pasco County parents are calling on the school board to reverse its decision to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity choice. “Our gender is not assigned. We are created male and female. God is good,” resident Harry Chamness told the board. The fight has focused on Robert Oppedisano, a physical education teacher at Chasco Middle School who has refused to monitor the boys locker room because he’s uncomfortable watching over a student who was born a female but identifies as a male. He’s asked the Liberty Counsel to protect his rights and his job. Superintendent Kurt Browning says, contrary to Internet reports, Oppedisano has not been disciplined for his refusal. Tampa Bay Times.

Board members sworn in: New school board members are sworn in and new chairpersons selected at districts around the state. Miami-DadeDuval. BrowardBrevard. Hernando. Pasco. Lee. Manatee. Sarasota. Alachua. Marion. Leon. Volusia. Monroe. Charlotte.

Legislative organization: Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, is sworn in as Florida Senate president, and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, as speaker of the House. Both urged civility for the 60-day session that begins March 5, and Oliva says he wants to reduce the size of government and spending on health care. Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, are the Senate and House minority leaders, respectively, for the next two years. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. GateHouse

Parkland & FBI: Parkland Commission chairman Bob Gualtieri said over the summer he expected someone from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to testify in September or October after agents had completed an internal investigation into botched tips warning that Nikolas Cruz might target as chool. But then, according to Gualtieri, agency officials said they wouldn’t be sending someone after all. Instead, they had mailed a packet of information for the panel to review. Gualtieri was told the packet was sent on Nov. 9. It has yet to arrive. WLRN.

Department backs off rules: The U.S. Education Department announces that it will back off rules established earlier this year that changed the way civil rights complaints were handled. The decision is seen as a victory for civil rights organizations and advocates for the disabled, who said the rules that allowed the department to dismiss cases that caused an “undue burden” on resources were discriminatory. The 74. Education Week.

Sheriff’s office shakeup: After four days of hearings last week into law enforcement’s actions during the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a Broward County Sheriff’s Office captain has resigned and a sergeant has been suspended pending the results of an internal investigation. Both were heavily criticized by the state commission investigating the shootings, in which 17 people died. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Associated PressPolitico Florida.

Parkland students honored: Parkland students who started an international movement to lobby for gun reform after the Feb. 14 shootings at Stoneman Douglas High are awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers failing tests: Minority teachers and those who aspire to teach are disproportionately failing the Florida teacher certification exam, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. About 43 percent of whites are failing the general knowledge math portion of the test, compared with 60 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks. “It’s a concern,” says Angela Pruitt, a Lee County School District administrator in charge of hiring. “If we’re struggling to get recruitment in minority categories then that makes recruitment that much harder.” WPTV.

School vaccinations: Fewer students in Duval and St. Johns counties are getting vaccinated, according to local health departments, with the percentages of unvaccinated students going up in each county in the past two years. WJAX.

School reopens: Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale resumed classes Tuesday, the day after 26 students and an employee were treated after suffering seizures, nosebleeds, shortness of breath or fainting at the school Monday. Officials are still looking for a cause. Associated Press. Sun-Sentinel.

District cancels deal: The Bay County School Board votes to end an agreement with the Florida Department of Health in Bay County. Superintendent Bill Husfelt pushed the cancellation, saying the department had tampered with student health records. The charge is being investigated. WJHG.

Suicide prevention training: The Alachua County School District is partnering with two agencies to bring the suicide-prevention training program, Hope Squad, to county high schools. WUFT.

Making up lost days: Leon County students will have full days Dec. 19 and 20 instead of half-days, the Leon County School Board decides. School officials want to be sure they’re making up enough class time that was lost when Hurricane Michael closed county schools for three days. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charter schools: Oakland town officials want to expand their Oakland Avenue Charter School to 700 students, but say they will have to spend up to $225,000 on maintenance projects at the school, built in 2003, to earn the approval of the Orange County School District. West Orange Times & Observer. The group trying to get a charter high school opened in Destin tells the city council that the school consultant has a 99 percent success rate in getting charter schools started. The Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee plans to file the application for the school to the Okaloosa County School District in February. If the school board approves, the school could open in August 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Personnel moves: Sky Beard resigns as director of the Brevard County Early Learning Coalition, which provides subsidized Pre-K programs, to take a job with the nonprofit No Kid Hungry Florida. Florida Today.

Teacher arrested: A Palm Beach County teacher is arrested and accused of sexual assault of a student. Police say Stephen Jack Tori, 28, an English teacher at Seminole Ridge High School, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student between March and May. Palm Beach Post.

Students arrested: A 12-year-old Lee County student is arrested and accused of writing a threatening message on a bathroom wall at Cypress Lake Middle School. Fort Myers News-Press. An 18-year-old Umatilla High School student is arrested and accused of having a switchblade knife on campus. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: Believe it or not, Republican Ron DeSantis owes his victory in the Florida gubernatorial election to about 100,000 African-American women who unexpectedly chose him over the black Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum. What explains Mr. DeSantis’ surprising support from African-American women? Two words: school choice. William Mattox, Wall Street Journal. The Osceola County School District testing of a new stop-arm prototype on their school buses could save children’s lives. The stop-arm will extend at least six feet into the road at windshield level and carries bright, flashing LEDs signaling drivers to stop. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Claire Sattler, a senior at Bishop Verot High School in Lee County, wins the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament and the $100,000 top prize. Fort Myers News-Press. Fifth-graders in Seminole County schools take their traditional walk in the mud at the Spring Hammock Preserve between Sanford and Winter Springs. Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff