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SEL out of favor, charters bills signed, top support employee, Corcoran named to BOG, and more

Around the state: The state’s Republican leaders have turned away from advocating social-emotional learning as a way to stop school shootings just four years after the massacre at a Parkland school in Broward County, Gov. Ron DeSantis signs two bills that will make it easier for charter schools to be approved, a paraprofessional at Hiland Park Elementary School in Panama City has been named the state’s school support employee of the year, former education commissioner Richard Corcoran has been appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Board of Governors, Brevard’s sheriff has told the school board his deputies won’t be used to enforce “unconstitutional” rules established for public commenting at board meetings, an Osceola man injured 12 years ago during a school wrestling match has his $3.5 million claim against the district approved by the governor, a Leon County principal and county commissioner has died of complications from long-term COVID, and 10 Florida students will compete in the Scripps National Spelling that begins today. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A group called Parents Defending Education has accused the school district of promoting transgenderism and suggesting in its LGBTQ+ youth support guide that students who are transitioning genders should keep parents at least somewhat in the dark. The guide, which was created in 2020, states that before notifying “any parent or guardian regarding the transition process, school staff should work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the parent(s) or guardian will be involved in the process and must carefully consider the health, well-being and safety of the transitioning student.” It also suggests that suggested that students might want to consider transitioning in between grades or over the summer “to maintain privacy and confidentiality.” District officials have not responded to the accusation. Fox News.

Hillsborough: District schools will begin installing menstrual pad dispensers this summer in high school bathrooms where at least 40 percent of students come from low-income families. The decision is the culmination of a two-year campaign by Hillsborough High School senior-to-be Aanya Patel, 16, to alleviate period poverty. In 2020 Patel started the nonprofit Global Girls Initiative, which has donated 250,000 menstrual hygiene products to schools, domestic violence shelters and other community organizations. Tampa Bay Times. Sheriff’s deputies arrested an 18-year-old man Sunday and accused him of making online threats by suggesting he was armed and headed to “the nearest school.” Corey Anderson posted a photo of himself with a gun, rifle and a tactical-style vest, deputies said, with the caption, “Hey Siri, directions to the nearest school.” Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WFLA.

Orange: An Orlando student who has been fighting brain cancer for the past decade was granted his final wish last week to graduate from Boone High School even though he was a few credits shy of completing his degree. Hospice workers discovered Abraham Maldonado’s dream and notified district officials, who presented the boy with an honorary diploma in front of those who have supported him. “You have been a model student despite many many challenges, and we all marvel at what you’ve learned, accomplished and shown us,” said Elizabeth Theis, principal of the district’s Hospital Homebound program. WESH.

Palm Beach: A deal has been reached that puts off the closing of St. Joseph’s Episcopal School at the St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach at least until June 2023. Church officials previously announced that the school’s lease would not be renewed after it expired in November, promoting protests from parents and students. Mediation sessions between the sides were held earlier this month. WPTV.

Duval: The school district has announced it will receive a $5.5 million grant to provide free mental health resources for students at eight locations during the 2022-2023 school year. The grant was awarded to the district, United Way of Northeast Florida and the Kids Hope Alliance. WJXT.

Lee: A 1st-grader from Edison Park Elementary School has died from bacterial meningitis, the school told parents in an e-mail Saturday. “It is with deep regret that I inform you about a recent loss to our school community,” principal Sherri Wipf said in the e-mail. “This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school, especially our students.” Mental health professionals will be at the school today to counsel students. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. A 10-year-old 5th-grader at Patriot Elementary in Cape Coral was arrested Saturday and accused of making a written threat to commit a mass shooting at the school. Deputies said the boy texted pictures to a friend of four assault rifles that he allegedly bought with the words, “Get ready for water day.” WINK. WFTX. WBBH. Associated Press.

Brevard: Sheriff Wayne Ivey has notified the school board that deputies will not be enforcing any public comment rules at board meetings because he considers them “unconstitutional.” In his letter to school board chair Misty Belford, Ivey wrote that his deputies “should not be treated as armed (school district) forces prepared to execute any potentially constitutionally violative request of the school board.” Some parents and the Moms for Liberty group have filed a lawsuit challenging the speaking policies. “The law clearly states that we can establish expectations for decorum in a limited public forum to facilitate our ability to complete board work,” said Belford. Florida Today.

Osceola: A man who was severely injured as a 13-year-old during a school wrestling match in 2010 will received $3.5 million in compensation from the school district after Gov. DeSantis signed his claims bill last week. Kareem Hawari joined the wrestling team without his parents’ permission, and in his second match his head was slammed to the ground by his opponent, causing a brainstem hemorrhage that affected his “cognitive abilities, motor coordination and ability to speak,” according to the subsequent lawsuit. Because Florida law caps settlements at $200,000 for people affected by negligence by a government agency such as a school, a claims bill had to be filed and approved by the Legislature, then signed by the governor. Orlando Sentinel. WTSP.

Leon: Jimbo Jackson, a teacher and principal at Fort Braden School for 30 years and a Leon County commissioner for the past five-plus years, died Saturday of complications from long-term COVID. He was 55. He was diagnosed with COVID in the summer of 2020. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WFSU. WCTV. Daily Beast.

Bay: Greg Lyon, a paraprofessional at Hiland Park Elementary School in Panama City, has been  named the state’s school support employee of the year by the Florida Department of Education. “It is very humbling because I love teaching and I love bringing what I bring to the classroom, but now, you know, I’m gonna have to bring it up,” Lyon joked. “I’m gonna have to do even more next year. Not that I care, I love it. I’ve already got a bunch of projects in mind to bring for the class next year.” Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Martin: School officials said they will continue to offer free breakfast and lunch this summer at seven schools to any child 18 years old or younger. There are no income restrictions. Meal distribution begins today. WPTV. A Martin County High School student will be disciplined after he wore the killer’s costume from the Scream movies and a had a fake knife in his bag on a school bus Friday. WPEC. Miami Herald.

Highlands: A Lake Placid High School student who was accused of cheating on a final exam was prohibited from graduating with his classmates, even though the test monitor confirmed the student did not cheat. The boy was in possession of his phone, but the monitor said the boy didn’t use it. The boy’s family has enlisted the help of the Florida Professional Special Education Advocates to fight the school’s decision. The Floridian.

SEL once embraced by state: After the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County that left 17 dead and 17 wounded, Republican lawmakers rushed to pass bills that would identify children’s mental health needs and provide help, with the intent to “reduce the likelihood of at-risk students developing social, emotional, or behavioral health problems, depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies, or substance use disorders.” Four years later, Gov. DeSantis and legislators have decided that a child’s social-emotional development belongs in the hands of parents, not schools. Social-emotional learning teaches children skills such as empathy, establishing and maintaining relationships and setting goals. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter school bill signed: Two bills that will make it easier for charter schools to be approved have been signed by Gov. DeSantis. H.B. 225 requires school districts to decide whether to renew or terminate charter schools at least 90 days before the end of a school year. It also includes a provision requiring districts to approve or deny charter school mergers within a 60-day period. S.B. 758 establishes a seven-member Charter School Review Commission to review and decide on charter school applications around the state, prohibit scharters from being closed “without cause,” and creates the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation at Miami Dade College. The laws go into effect July 1. reimaginED.

Poll split on new bills: Thirty-seven percent of Floridians support the Parental Rights in Education law that places restrictions on teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity while 43 percent oppose it and 20 percent had no opinion, according to recent polling by Florida Atlantic University. Fifty-three percent of Republicans support the bill, according to the poll, compared with 33 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents. Sun Sentinel.

Corcoran to Board of Governors: Former education commissioner Richard Corcoran has been appointed to the Florida Board of Governors by Gov. DeSantis. Corcoran resigned in April after leading the Florida Department of Education for three years. The Board of Governors oversees the state’s 12 universities. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

Scripps Spelling Bee: The Scripps National Spelling Bee begins today in National Harbor, Md. The semifinals are Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the ION channel, with the finals scheduled Thursday at 8 p.m., also on ION. Florida has 10 students among the 234 in the competition: Juan Rondeau, 13, 7th grade, Miami-Dade County; Naresh Ram, 14, 8th grade, Collier County; Sydney Graham, 14, 8th grade, Leon County; Brody Santos, 12, 7th grade, Miami-Dade; Varshitha Bojanapati, 13, 7th grade, Palm Beach County; Bruhat Soma, 10, 5th grade, Hillsborough County; Sam Evans, 14, 8th grade, Duval County; Ekansh Rastogi, 13, 8th grade, Orange County; Jose Garcia, 13, 8th grade, Lee County; and Aaron Kuebler, 12, 6th grade, Orange County. Scripps National Spelling Bee. Associated Press. WFTS. WPTV.

More on FSA testing: Reports from districts around the state on the results of the 3rd-grade Florida Standards Assessments reading test. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Alachua Chronicle. WCJB.

Around the nation: The Justice Department has announced it will review the response of law enforcement agencies during the May 24 shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen students and two teachers died in the attack by an 18-year-old gunman who was shot dead by the U.S. Border Patrol, and 17 others were wounded. The massacre has prompted schools across the country to bolster their security. Associated Press

Opinions on schools: The achievement loss for students during the pandemic is far greater than most educators and parents seem to realize. The only question now is whether state and local governments will recognize the magnitude of the educational damage and make students whole. Thomas Kane, The Atlantic.

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BY NextSteps staff