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Judge blocks state’s Stop WOKE Act, sex ed curriculum challenged, school guards and more

Stop WOKE Act stopped: A federal judge has granted a temporary injunction blocking a part of a state law restricting how race-related concepts can be taught in universities and punishing schools and educators found to be in violation. In ruling against the state’s Stop WOKE Act, which was championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote that “this court concludes that the state of Florida, as an employer and educator, cannot restrict university employees from expressing a disfavored viewpoint about a matter within the established curriculum while instructing on that curriculum. … Such viewpoint discrimination is poison to a free society.” Professors and students from several state universities challenged the law in a pair of lawsuits. A DeSantis spokesman said the decision will be appealed. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Tampa Bay Times. The Hill. Fox News. Washington Post.

Around the state: Thousands of Hillsborough County parents and residents are demanding the school district reconsider its chosen sex education curriculum for students in grades 7-9, a losing Broward school board candidate has filed a suit contending her opponent is ineligible to hold office because he pleaded guilty to a felony charge in 1995 and hasn’t had his civil rights restored, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd makes a public appeal for more armed guardians in Florida schools, Florida Gulf Coast University is restarting its search for a president after all three finalists withdraw, and a report shows that growth in U.S. charter school enrollment has remained steady the past three years. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A school board candidate who lost a race last week for the District 1 seat has filed a lawsuit challenging the winner’s eligibility to hold office. Because Rod Velez pleaded guilty to a felony charge in 1995 and has not applied to have his civil rights restored, argues Marie Murray Martin, he can’t legally hold public office. WLRN. School choice has taken the form of a K-12 academy in Pembroke Pines for aspiring soccer players. Pathway Schools opened five years ago to fill the perceived niche, and now has three campuses in south Florida that serve about 75 students, most of them in middle and high school. The idea “came out of me realizing I can’t develop a high-level athlete without working on all the components,” said school founder Djems “DJ” Lima. “With eight hours in a focused environment, we can really cater to the kids’ needs. Not just the athletic aspect, but the academic aspect and the mental aspect.” Sixteen of the 24 students on the Pembroke Pines campus attend school with income-based school choice scholarships. Step Up For Students helps administer those scholarships, and hosts this blog. reimaginED.

Hillsborough: Dozens of critics of the school district’s chosen sex education curriculum for students in grades 7-9 argued before an independent hearing officer Thursday that the material is inappropriate and doesn’t encourage abstinence-based lessons as required by state law. An attorney for the school district defended the curriculum, saying it complies with state law and has been reviewed by attorneys and community members. More than 3,000 people also have signed a petition opposing the curriculum. Tampa Bay Times. Spectrum News 9. WFTS. WTSP.

Polk: Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday that every school should have multiple armed persons to guard against a school shooter. Speaking Thursday at Polk State College Center for Public Safety, Judd said, “One is better than none. Two is better than one. Three is better than two. Four is better than three.” WTVT. WFLA. WTSP. School board members are considering seven properties in the northeastern part of the county as a home for a new high school. No vote was taken, and the school district’s attorney has been asked to research potential impact fees on each property. The school is needed to help ease overcrowding at Haines City High School. Lakeland Ledger.

Collier: Sixty district teachers from 58 schools have been named teachers of distinction by the Champions for Learning, the Collier nonprofit education foundation. A foundation committee will now determine which of the 60 receive Golden Apple awards. Naples Daily News.

Lake: A 14-year-old Lake Minneola High School freshman waiting for his school bus Thursday morning in Clermont was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the car was found later and the owner is being questioned. Grief counselors will be available today at the school for students and staff. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Sarasota: Construction has begun on a dual-language charter school in the Newtown community of Sarasota. Dreamers Academy’s new campus is scheduled to be completed next summer and open to K-5 students in August 2023 with instruction in both English and Spanish. The academy opened in 2021 and has held classes at the Temple Beth Sholom Educational campus. “This model has been implemented across the country for many years,” said Dreamers Academy founder Geri Chaffee. “Scholars show that the academic impact of learning in two languages is astronomical… it just gets these children really engaged. It gets the families really engaged and it makes learning fun. Isn’t that what we want for children in classrooms?” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Okaloosa: A national program started this year in the school district is giving practical work experiences in the hotel industry to six students with disabilities. Project SEARCH was developed at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to help train young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for employment. The internship program is designed for job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose goal is finding employment. “They show up enthusiastic most every day, they’re happy to be here and they’re happy to be learning job skills,” said Rhiannon Reynolds, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn where the students are working. “We’ve had a lot of successes, and there have been a few learning moments for all of us. But that’s part of it, and we’re teaching them how to navigate, not just a job, but also the problems that come with a workplace.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Putnam: School district officials said they are looking to hire teachers, paraprofessionals, licensed practical nurses, custodians, bus drivers and aides, food service employees, and more. WJAX.

Colleges and universities: Florida Gulf Coast University is restarting its search for a new president after the Board of Governors questioned the timing of the selection, leading to a two-week delay in the process. During that delay, two of the finalists withdrew. Later, the third candidate also withdrew. During the Nov. 2 trustees meeting when a president was expected to be selected, BOG chair Brian Lamb talked with the chair of the trustees, Blake Gable, and said it would be “atypical” for a new president to be named so close to the BOG meeting Nov. 9-10. Gable then proposed the two-week delay. A new timeline for the search is expected to be set by trustees at their December meeting. WGCU. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. The University of Central Florida has received a $10 million donation from Dr. Philips Charities for its new nursing school. Florida Politics. The University of Miami is partnering with Achieve Miami and Teach for America to begin a teacher accelerator program for students that will guarantee them a teaching job in the Miami-Dade School District upon graduation. Students who are not majoring in education are the targets of the program, which consists of a one-semester program and a paid internship. The Capitolist. Haney Technical College in Panama City is one of eight in the country to receive a grant to buy tools needed by students in the electrician’s program. WMBB.

Making up for lost time: School district officials talk about all the factors that have to be considered when trying to decide when schools should close during storms, and how to make up instructional time lost when they do. Tampa Bay Times.

Legislative leadership: Incoming Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, a Republican from Palm Coast, has appointed Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, as speaker pro tempore and Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, as majority leader. The 60-day legislative session begins March 6. Florida Politics.

Around the nation: A new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows that enrollment gains in charter schools and losses in traditional public schools have remained steady in the past three years. “No matter how you examine the data, families from all walks of life are making different choices for their children since the pandemic began and many have chosen charter schools,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the group. “The pandemic shifted parent views towards education and motivated them to find better options for their children. Public charter schools were there for communities during this trying time, resulting in an ongoing increase of enrollment.” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Teachers who have higher expectations for their students get better results from them, according to a recent study commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The study also concludes that charter and private schools do the best job at conveying the message that high achievement should be the norm and not the exception. reimaginED. Conservative groups such as the Moms for Liberty vow to press ahead to get their candidates elected to school board seats despite a mixed performance in the Nov. 8 general election. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: The best lever to accelerate learning in America is to use the science of how children learn to read, comprehensively outlined by the National Reading Panel more than 20 years ago, and implement these recommendations in every elementary school in America. John B. King and Jacquelyn Davis, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff