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Broward and Duval ask for help with grand jury report issues, book challenges, recount and more

Around the state: Broward schools will hire a consultant to review the statewide grand jury report to see how it might correct any continuing problems and Duval is asking for a state audit of its school crime reporting procedures, St. Johns school board members vote to keep eight challenged books on library shelves but have added restrictions, a private school in Hillsborough that is asking LGBTQ students to leave received $1.6 million in state scholarship money during the 2021-2022 school year, a machine recount is being held today for the Hillsborough school tax initiative that lost in a close vote Tuesday, Palm Beach schools report a 6,000-student waiting list for after-school programs, a Lee County high school student whose “Back the Blue”-themed parking space was painted over by school administrators has gotten permission to redo it, and a teacher in Escambia County is being called a hero for saving a choking student. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: The school district will hire a consultant to review the recently released statewide grand jury report that alleges mismanagement by the district and make recommendations on how to correct any problems. The report also recommended that Gov. Ron DeSantis remove four current school board members. A spokesman for the governor said the grand jury report and recommendations are still being reviewed. Sun-Sentinel. While mental health experts who treated Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz said no one could have foreseen what he would do, one 2014 letter from a psychiatrist and a therapist said Cruz was fixated on guns and had “dreams of killing others and is covered in blood.” Defense attorneys are introducing testimony about Cruz’s troubled childhood to try to convince the jury to recommend life in prison instead of the death penalty. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. Summarizing what happened Thursday in the sentencing trial of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: The private Christian school in Valrico that told parents last week that it would ask LGBTQ students to leave immediately received more than $1.6 million in state scholarship money during the 2021-2022 academic year, according to data from the Florida Department of Education and Step Up For Students, which helps administer state scholarship programs and hosts this blog. Grace Christian School has about 470 K-12 students, and more than 250 received scholarships. School administrator Barry McKeen said the policy banning LGBTQ students has been in place since the school opened in 1975. Orlando Sentinel. A machine recount of the results of the school tax initiative that lost Tuesday by less than 1,500 votes out of more than 222,000 votes cast will be held today at the office of the supervisor of elections. If that count shows a difference of 0.25 percent or less, a manual recount will be done. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Orange: Parents at several schools are reporting problems with air-conditioning that have lingered for days. Some students at Ocoee High School, Sunridge Middle and Lake Whitney Elementary said they stayed home because it was too hot in their schools. District officials acknowledged having problems, and said they are working on a solution. WFTV.

Palm Beach: An increased demand for after-school programs plus a shortage of workers equals a 6,000-student waiting list for those services, according to district officials. About 90 percent of the 93 after-school programs report having waiting lists. “For every one child in an after-school program, currently there are three more on the waiting list to get in,” said Katherine Gopie, who works for a nonprofit organization that provides resources and training for after-school programs. WPTV. A Pahokee High School teacher pleaded guilty Thursday to four charges of simple battery. As part of the plea, Stephen Goodman must resign from his job and can’t return to teaching until he completes 48 months of probation. Goodman had been accused of inappropriately touching female students. WPEC.

Duval: After being criticized by the statewide grand jury investigating school safety for underreporting school crimes, district officials are asking the Department of Education’s Safe Schools office to conduct an audit of their procedures. They said many significant changes have already been made. “We want to make sure we’re following the law and the procedures that are there and at the same time, make sure we are caring for our students. If we create the right environment to do that, we’ll be in a good place,” said school board chair Darryl Willie. WJAX. WJXT. Jacksonville Today. WTLV

Polk: School board member Kay Fields, who narrowly won re-election to her District 5 seat, said she was saddened by the negative tenor of the campaign, which included ads from political action committees headquartered in other states. “I’ve lived in Polk County since 1978, and I have seen a lot of campaign races, with (husband) Gow (Fields) having run campaigns and then with me now, this is my sixth campaign,” Fields said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my days, nothing like it. And it has just really, really saddened me that we have gotten into a place like this.” Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: A 14-year-old was arrested by Clearwater police Thursday after he allegedly showed another student a gun and said he was going to use it at Countryside High School before the end of the school year. No gun was found, and police are continuing the investigation. WFLA.

Lee: An Estero High School senior will be allowed to repaint her “Back the Blue” design on her school parking space. Her original design was painted over last weekend by school administrators because a district spokesman said it hadn’t been approved. Tuesday, the student submitted her design, which is a blue stripe with the words “BACK THE BLUE” written in black paint, and it was approved. Austin Glickman, president of Law Enforcement Officer’s Weekend, was critical of the district’s decision. “I’m not sure how that’s controversial,” Glickman said in a TikTok post. “Apparently supporting law enforcement is against school policy?” Fort Myers News-Press.

Seminole: District officials have begun reviewing instructional materials for social studies courses, and are inviting parents and other members of the community to join the committees that will also review the materials and make recommendations. WKMG. WFTV.

Collier: An Immokalee Middle School student has been arrested and accused of making a social media threat of a mass shooting at the school. The official charge is written threats to kill or do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism. WINK. WBBH.

St. Johns: School board members voted Thursday to keep eight books that a group of parents had complained about for content that included, they said, references to sexuality, sexual identity, racism and critical race theory. The board agreed to the recommendations from the media advisory committees and Superintendent Tim Forson that the books be retained but be restricted by grades. The parents who complained about the books said they will continue to fight to get them removed. WJXT. WTLV.

Escambia: A Beulah Middle School teacher is being credited with saving the life of a choking student Thursday. Agriculture teacher Leanne Jenkins said the student was choking on a piece of candy when she employed the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge it. “I am just thankful, like I had the training that I had and I was at the right place at the right moment,” she said. WEAR.

Alachua: In a county with the state’s largest achievement gap between white and black students, the nearly all-black Caring and Sharing Learning School in Gainesville posted the highest learning gains in the district. Officials at the charter school credit high expectations, positive attitudes, firm but caring discipline and a challenging curriculum that includes daily doses of black history for the academic achievements. WUFT.

Hernando: Hernando High School is honoring an alumnus, Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer, by attaching his name to the school’s science wing. Farmer, who died in February, graduated from the school in 1978. Suncoast News.

Putnam: Deputies found a pellet gun in an 11-year-old student’s backpack at Kelly Smith Elementary School, just hours after a lockdown was called at James A. Long Elementary School when an airsoft gun was found in a 7-year-old’s backpack. No arrests were made. WCJB. WTLV.

Colleges and universities: Palm Beach County commissioners approved the donation of land valued at $42 million in downtown West Palm Beach to the University of Florida. UF is planning to create a graduate school campus on the site. Palm Beach Post.

Around the nation: A federal judge has ruled that it’s unconstitutional for colleges to require students taking tests remotely to scan the rooms they’re in. Cleveland State University’s requirement violated the student’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting U.S. citizens against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the judge decided. NPR.

Opinions on schools: Florida doesn’t pay school districts to teach empty desks. Families aren’t forced to use the state’s scholarships. They willingly choose them because they are dissatisfied with district offerings and desire more options in their children’s education. Districts should seek the answers as to why. Patrick R. Gibbons, reimaginED. By scrapping the old system of residential-based schooling and adopting truly unencumbered choice, Arizona has created a funding system for education that lives up to our values as Americans. The future of school funding has arrived, and Arizona is leading the way. Which states will follow? Marty Lueken and James Shuls, reimaginED. I hope more teachers realize that the mainstreaming of education choice is expanding options for them too. The freedom is there, if you want it. Shiren Rattigan, Sun-Sentinel. What’s particularly revealing about new state laws outlining what teachers can say in classrooms about race, sexual orientation, gender identity or civics, is that they appear to fall squarely on public schools, not on private religious or most charter schools that receive public funds but operate outside the curriculum policies established by local school boards. Carl Ramey, Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff