Students and mass attack tipoffs, costume concern, superintendents’ jobs and more

Mass attack warnings: Most of the students who launched deadly attacks against their schools between 2008 and 2017 had a history of disciplinary problems and being bullied, showed disturbing behavior that was never reported, had easy access to weapons and telegraphed their intentions, according to a study released Thursday by the U.S. Secret Service. “These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled,” said Lina Alathari, head of the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which conducted the study of the attacks. “The majority of these incidents are preventable.” The report urges schools to look for the warning signs, and to have a low threshold for conducting a threat assessment of students and for intervening: “Schools, parents, and law enforcement must work together rapidly to restrict access to weapons in those cases when students pose a risk of harm to themselves or others,” the report urged. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Education Week.

Costume controversy: A high-ranking Broward County School District administrator is under scrutiny for wearing a costume of a naked woman to work for Halloween. Mary Catherine Coker, the school district’s director of procurement and warehousing services, dressed as a flasher with a trench coat covering a body suit that detailed a nude woman’s body. Coker, 46, wouldn’t say if a video that was posted online was taken in the district’s offices. District spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said the district is responding according to policy, but would not be specific about any disciplinary action. Miami Herald.

Superintendents’ jobs: Sarasota school Superintendent Todd Bowden says he doesn’t think he deserves to be fired for the way he handled a sexual harassment allegation against the district’s chief operations officer, and he doesn’t want to be. “I can tell you, I don’t want to step down as superintendent,” Bowden said in a televised interview. “I love my job.” Four of the five school board members have to agree to fire Bowden, and even his supporters acknowledge that’s likely to happen at a meeting Dec. 10. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier and the school board quarrel at a meeting Thursday over a report that criticized her for violating the “spirit” of the board’s anti-bullying and harassment policy. Maier and her attorney called the board-commissioned report a “witch hunt,” while board members criticized Maier’s attorney for releasing the report prematurely and called on Maier to stop bullying employees. Ocala Star-Banner. The three finalists for the Volusia superintendent’s job interview with school board members today after outlining their goals during public meetings Thursday. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Civic literacy projects: Florida high school students could have the option of participating in a nonpartisan civic literacy project as part of their civics education under a bill filed this week in the Florida House. H.B. 581, filed by state Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, would give students an opportunity in U.S. government classes to identify a community problem, research it and devise strategies to address it. The goal is to improve citizen engagement. Florida Politics.

Contract negotiations: Members of the Indian River County’s teachers union have voted against the contract Superintendent Susan Moxley recommended and the school board approved to end a negotiations impasse. The district and union will resume discussions about performance-pay and insurance premiums. TCPalm. Orange County teachers and the school district have resumed negotiations to discuss wages and how bonuses from the state will be distributed. The union rejected a district proposal last month that called for a 6 percent pay raise over two years. WKMG.

Challenge to law dropped: Teachers and their unions have dropped a challenge to a 2018 state law that requires unions to be recertified if the number of dues-paying members drops below 50 percent of employees eligible for representation. The notice of dismissal did not explain the decision. News Service of Florida.

Medical marijuana in schools: Martin County School Board members are considering a policy that would allow students with prescriptions to receive medical marijuana treatment at schools. Only parents or a caregiver could bring the drug and administer it, and they would have take the medication with them when they leave. Districts were recently put on notice by the state that they had until the end of the year to comply with the law allowing treatment on campuses. TCPalm.

Educators honored: The three finalists for the Pasco County School District teacher of the year are Jennifer Dixon, a social studies teacher at Gulf High School; Joel Santos Gonzalez, who teaches Spanish at Gulf Middle School; and Patty Hanley, a teacher in Krinn Technical High School’s Transition program. Gradebook. Fifteen teachers are chosen as semifinalists for the Duval County School District’s teacher of the year award. Five finalists will be selected next month, and the winner will be named Jan. 17. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Education podcasts: Can the state afford to boost the starting teacher salary to $47,500, increase per-student funding, expand vouchers, and improve early education and school security without increasing taxes in the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 14? State Rep. Chris Latvala, chairman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee, talks about the education priorities. Gradebook. University of Central Florida professor Michele Regalla and instructor Amanda Caraway of the VIPKid online teaching company talk about how schools can meet the needs of students who are learning English. WMFE.

School calendar: The Flagler County School Board is considering a 2020-2021 school year calendar that gives students a week off at Thanksgiving, five hurricane makeup days, and no school on primary and general election days. Students would begin Aug. 10, and the last day of school would be May 27. The board is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. Flagler Live. Many west-central Florida school districts are closed Monday for Veterans Day, but some will have classes. Tampa Bay Times.

Students hurt in bus crash: Five students from Lake Shore Middle School in Palm Beach County were taken to a hospital for treatment after their school bus was involved in an accident with a tractor trailer and pickup truck in the western part of the county. Palm Beach Post. Miami Herald.

Educators disciplined: A Leon County teacher has been arrested and accused of soliciting a prostitute. Brian Winsett, 50, a physical education teacher at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of a court hearing. Tallahassee Democrat. Four Duval County School District employees and a Clay County teacher have been disciplined by the Florida Department of Education for various infractions. Permanently losing his certification was Parris Lee, a security guard and coach at Fletcher High School, who sent a nude photo of himself to a student. Florida Times-Union.

Students and the law: A 16-year-old student at Lennard High School in Hillsborough County has been arrested and accused of threatening to shoot some of her classmates. Spectrum Bay News 9. WTSP. An 18-year-old Manatee County student was arrested and accused of secretly videoing another student masturbating in a Braden River High School bathroom, and then sending the video to friends. Bradenton Herald. Palm Beach County School District officers confiscated a pellet gun from a student’s backpack at Polo Park Middle School in Wellington. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Florida students’ performance on National Assessment of Educational Progress testing sounds an alarm that the state needs to regularly raise the school grading scale. Patricia Levesque, Tampa Bay Times. There’s a legitimate case to be made that studying the Bible — or at least the history of the Bible — is crucial for a full understanding of the world. But can Florida public school districts teach it without preaching it? TCPalm. The problem within the Sarasota County School District is larger than the impact of one man alone. A culture of division and acrimony, driven by ego and politics, has demoralized staff, alienated the community and threatened the once stellar reputation of the district. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Less talk and more action is necessary to reduce the educational disparities among black and white students in the Alachua County School District. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. The unbundling and rebundling of education products and services is coming. Charter schools can help drive this train or get run over by it. Doug Tuthill, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Sixty-five schools have received grants from the Southwest Florida Management District for programs to teach K-12 students about freshwater resources.  Highlands News-Sun. The Sarasota Military Academy charter school’s technology program, Operation Outbreak, has been named one of the world’s most innovative hybrid learning programs by the Wharton School and QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Patch.

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BY NextSteps staff