Security and discipline, innovative new schools, sales tax hike fight and more

Security in schools: The new school year brings new security measures to keep students safe, including laws addressing mental health, active shooter drills and more. WLRN. Florida Daily. A newly imposed rule from the Florida Department of Education requiring five hours of mental health instruction for students in grades 6-12 has no funding attached, say Orange County legislators. Orlando Weekly. Law enforcement officials in Lee and Collier counties say students making fake threats against schools will be prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law. Fort Myers News-Press. Several legislators say they want to close a loophole in state law after Citrus County prosecutors declined to prosecute a man who is alleged to have threatened two county schools. Citrus County Chronicle.

Discipline in schools: A national survey suggests that student discipline is a growing concern for teachers. The survey, conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, finds that most teachers believe school discipline processes are “inconsistent or inadequate.” Among the recommendations for improvement: Discontinue the “restorative” discipline practices that are aimed at keeping students out of the criminal justice system, and give teachers and principals more discretion about discipline. Gradebook. Meanwhile, the Florida Restorative Justice Association is urging an expansion of the alternative disciplinary practice. News Service of Florida.

New schools: The first school in the state that returns more energy to the power grid than it uses has opened in Osceola County. NeoCity Academy is a new STEM magnet high school built for 625 students. It’s expected to save about $115,000 a year in energy costs due to its 650 solar panels and energy-efficient design. T.H.E. Journal. The city of Aventura finally has its first high school. The Don Soffer Aventura High School, a charter school, opened Monday to 200 freshmen. Previously, K-8 students from the city had to leave to attend high school. It’s one of 11 new charter schools that opened this week in Miami-Dade County Miami Herald. A new $15 million Ahfachkee school has been built on the Seminole Tribe’s Big Cypress Reservation just south of Clewiston, and two more phases are planned. The school had been a collection of a few trailers. About 200 students in grades 6-12 will be schooled in collaborative, hand’s-on learning with a focus on Seminole culture. Fort Myers News-Press.

Sales tax hike fight: Jacksonville’s general counsel says he won’t withdraw his opinion that only the city council has the authority to place a sales tax hike request from the Duval County School Board on the ballot. Jason Gabriel says a letter sent by lawyers representing the school district, citing a ruling last week by a circuit judge in a similar case involving Clay County, doesn’t change his mind. The judge ruled that it was the school board’s decision to ask voters for more tax money, and the city council’s to decide when the election is held. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics.

Union’s role targeted: Sarasota County Superintendent Todd Bowden is calling for an investigation into the teachers union’s role in a sexual harassment allegation made by the former administrative assistant to the district’s chief financial officer. The woman, Cheraina Bonner, alleges that COO Jeff Maultsby sexually harassed her and that Bowden ignored the allegations. Bowden says Bonner met with union officials, and wants to know if the union is paying Bonner’s legal fees or providing advice. Union officials say they were just trying to lift Bonner’s spirits. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Principal’s background: Manatee County school officials appointed a principal they knew had a history of discipline problems to a charter school the district was taking over because they felt they had to quickly appoint someone who knew the school. Ronnie King, who was appointed to lead Lincoln Memorial Academy after Eddie Hundley was removed, didn’t report a child abuse allegation in 2017 and recently made derogatory comments to a teacher from his former school. “The most important factor in regards to Mr. King, and what the school board and the superintendent were both looking for, was somebody who had served at Lincoln Middle School before,” said district spokesman Mike Barber said. Bradenton Herald.

Athletic trainers: The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to approve a proposal today to require certified athletic trainers at all high schools. The decision comes two months after 14-year-old Hezekiah Walters collapsed and died during football conditioning drills at Middleton High School in Tampa. Trainers will be provided by Certified Athletic Trainers from the University of South Florida SMART Institute (USF), Select Physical Therapy and PT Solutions Holdings LLC. WFTS.

Teacher shortages: The Pasco County School District still had 102 open teaching jobs on the first day of school, according to district officials. That’s up from 88 a year ago. Sixty-nine of the openings were for elementary school and special education teachers. Gradebook.

Legislative priorities: The Florida School Boards Association is working on its list of priorities for the 2020 legislative session, and boosting teacher pay and reforming state testing are among the ideas being considered. The board will finalize its list in September. Gradebook. Orange County school officials are pressing their legislative delegation for more Public Education Capital Outlay money to build new schools and repair old ones. Also in the mix is a proposal to raise the sales tax by a penny to improve transportation in the county, which would also benefit the school district. Florida Politics.

Teacher pay: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran predicts that “landmark legislation” will be passed by the Legislature in 2020 to boost teacher pay. “Almost every single time, every single speech that I’ve been with him (Gov. Ron DeSantis), he has hinted strongly — and it’s been in the press — that we need to do far, far more to elevate and celebrate the teaching profession. I’m hopeful, and I think it’s going to happen, that this legislative session will be a landmark teacher compensation package for our school teachers.” Pensacola News Journal. The Hillsborough County School Board meets today to discuss paying more to teachers who are willing to work at struggling schools. Gradebook.

Reading list rapped: A Florida Department of Education back-to-school reading set, called “Commissioner (Richard) Corcoran’s Back-To-School Reading List,” is being widely criticized on Twitter for being outdated and with little diversity of authors, characters and themes. School Library Journal.

Closing school proposal: The Polk County School District are considering closing Frostproof Elementary School within the next few years and placing its students at Ben Hill Griffin Jr. Elementary. Frostproof was built in 1950, Griffin in 1992. Additions would be made to Griffin under the plan, which will be discussed at a community meeting Thursday. Lakeland Ledger.

School busing improves: There continues to be problems with busing Monday in the Leon County School District, school officials say, but nothing close to the massive failure experienced last week. Tallahassee Democrat.

Education podcasts: Teachers and parents in Alachua and Marion counties talk about how many tests students take in a school year, and how many they should take. WUFT.

Notable deaths: Grief counselors are at the Deane Bozeman School in Bay County to help students cope with the death of 17-year-old senior Caroline Long, who died in a head-on car crash last weekend. Panama City News-Herald.

Teacher honored: Shannon Perry-Martinez, a kindergarten dual language teacher at Gator Run Elementary School in Broward County, is named educator of the year at the Operation Smile’s International Student Leadership Conference. Miami’s Community Newspapers.

Students hurt in bus crash: Three Orange County students suffered minor injuries when a pickup truck ran into their school bus on Monday morning. The children, siblings ages 5, 6 and 8, were headed to Arbor Ridge K-8 School. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old student is arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot seven people at Seabreeze High School in Volusia County. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 13-year-old student at Pine Ridge Middle School in Collier County is arrested and accused of threatening another student through messages on Snapchat. Naples Daily News. A 17-year-old student at Avon Park High School in Highlands County is arrested and accused of bringing a gun to the school on Monday. WFLA.

Lawsuit dropped: The mother of a Charlotte County student who was suing the school board over the girl’s assault on a school bus ramp has dropped the suit. The suit had claimed the Port Charlotte Middle School staff was negligent for failing to keep her child safe. Charlotte Sun.

Opinions on schools: Schools haven’t done enough to keep students safe, says a group of 50 prominent Florida political and policy figures from across the state. But most of those officials put the blame on the Legislature for passing legislation that is too narrow in scope. Miami Herald. The state needs to start naming names of the school districts that are lagging behind on compliance with school safety laws, and hold them accountable. Tampa Bay Times. Correcting the financial woes of the Hernando County Commission and the growing needs of our school district must begin with fairness and responsibility to those who already live here. Let’s get a meaningful education impact fee passed now. Greg Laskoski, Tampa Bay Times. Are students in public school classrooms really better behaved because the statistics say they are? Not exactly. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Grade-school students at the Combee Academy of Design and Engineering in Lakeland are learning about the importance of bees through a live bee colony in the school. WFTS.

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BY NextSteps staff