Tenure could be tied to race instruction, book ban in Broward, busing issues, and more

Around the state: A proposal before the Florida Board of Governors would allow universities to use compliance with a state law restricting how race-related matters are taught in classrooms as one of seven factors in deciding whether to grant professors tenure, two books are removed from school libraries in Broward County and nine others are restricted by age groups, the University of Florida student body president faces impeachment after supporting Ben Sasse for the school presidency, Pinellas County schools are still struggling with bus issues because of the shortage of drivers, another Escambia school is targeted by the state after receiving an F grade, and a Volusia school counselor is pressing charges against a 10-year-old student for an “unwanted touch” during a hug. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school district and Superintendent Jose Dotres are making a final push to convince voters Tuesday that they should renew a property tax hike for to pay for teacher raises and school safety. “We are not funded sufficiently to be able to compete at the level that we need to compete in order to retain the talent that our children in this community deserve,” said Dotres. WPLG. WFOR. Police said a 19-year-old man who rammed a police car Thursday in North Miami Beach and then ran into C.G. Bethel High School with a knife was subdued before anyone was injured. WSVN. A 22-year-old woman has been arrested and accused of selling marijuana-laced edibles to students at Citrus Grove elementary and middle schools. Several of the children overdosed Wednesday and were hospitalized. Miami Herald. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. A student was hospitalized Thursday morning after a dump truck ran into the back of a school bus. WTVJ.

Broward: Eleven books that were challenged by the conservative group Moms for Liberty for their sexual or LGBTQ content are being removed from school libraries or restricted to certain age groups, according to a memo recently sent to principals. Chief academic officer Nicole Mancini ordered schools to remove It’s Perfectly Normal, a children’s book that contains “explicit sexual pictures,” according to the district’s review committee, and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which the committee said “is inappropriate due to the negativity towards the government” in its telling of a fictional story about a pet rabbit of former Vice President Mike Pence that falls in love with a rabbit of the same sex. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: The family of a boy injured during a TikTok challenge at Boca Raton Community Middle School in March is suing the school district for failing to call an ambulance after the injury, provide a nurse or stop the boys who tricked their son from later posting a video of the incident. “What did the school know? What did not just Boca Middle but the entire school system? And if they didn’t know, then what are they doing?” asked Rachel Morgan, the mother of the injured boy. Her attorneys are trying to identify the boys who tricked her son into the challenge, and additional lawsuits are possible. WESH.

Duval: Demand is soaring for a spot in Jacksonville’s DePaul School for students with dyslexia. About one in five people have dyslexia, and the school’s process of teaching the connections between sounds and letters, and a multisensory approach to teaching reading has pushed enrollment up to 100. Now the school is changing locations to try to accommodate the demand. “We are hoping to grow the program,” said Dr. Chanley Dudley, a Jacksonville physician with a child at DePaul. “And because there’s such an unmet need, we are hoping to grow and move to a new location to facilitate just the growth of the classroom sizes but maintaining a small environment for the students so that they can have that individualized one-on-one teaching in that multi-sensory way.” WJCT.

Polk: Campaign donations from outside the county are flowing into the District 7 school board race. Incumbent Lisa Miller is being challenged by Jill Sessions for the seat. Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, said the influx of outside money into school board races is “a relatively recent trend” and can be very effective. “Since school board races are typically low information races with relatively small amounts of money spent on advertising,” he said, “the infusion of large sums to buy more ads can have an outsized influence on the race.” Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: A shortage of school bus drivers and the subsequent inconsistency of bus pickups, dropoffs and notification alerts to parents continues to cause problems for the school district. “A reliable bus with reliable and accurate communication should not be a luxury for our kids,” said one concerned parent, Jessica Siebold. Superintendent Kevin Hendrick said the message has been received. The district is reorganizing class schedules for the students who are regularly late, and providing activities and snacks for students who have to wait for a ride home. Longer-term, school officials are testing a GPS-based bus tracking system to provide accurate information about bus locations for parents, and considering changing start times that would better align with actual bus arrival and departure times. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Three weeks after Hurricane Ian battered Pine Island, a barrier island just west of Cape Coral, its elementary school is reopen and in the process of getting back to normal. Somehow, it had suffered only minor water and wind damage. When people were allowed back on the island to check their property, Pine Island Elementary reading coach Mendy Nelson said, “We took our truck, had to climb through some debris, looked at the school, and we were just in awe. We called Dr. (Tom) Millins, our principal, right away and said, ‘you will not believe this. Our school looks amazing.’ I think angels were surrounding it,” she said. The school has now been opened for a week, and most of its students were located and returned. WFTX. WINK. WBBH. Many other Lee County schools continue to struggle to recover. Florida Phoenix. A student at South Fort Myers High School was arrested this week and accused of having a gun on campus. Principal Ed Mathews said the gun was found during a standard search, and that no students were threatened. WBBH.

Volusia: A district mental health counselor is pressing charges against a 10-year-old Holly Hill School student for an “unwanted touch” during a hug. The student was suspended for 10 days when the district determined he deliberately grabbed the breast of the counselor during the hug. His grandmother, who is also his legal guardian, disagreed with the decision to file charges. “We’re talking about a 10-year-old being kicked out of school for what possibly could have been an accident,” she said. She plans to ask district officials to revoke the suspension and excuse the absences. The counselor’s complaint has been forwarded to the state attorney’s office for consideration. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Escambia: O.J. Semmes Elementary School in Pensacola is the latest district school with performance problems that is drawing the attention of the Florida Department of Education. O.J. Semmes has received grades of F from the state for the past two years, though it was permitted to opt out of receiving a grade for the 2021-2022 school year, and is now on a watch list that could take it on the same path as Warrington Middle School. Warrington received a grade of D for four straight years, leading the state to demand the school be closed or converted into a charter school, which is the option the district chose. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. is urging Superintendent Tim Smith to intervene at O.J. Semmes now to avoid a replay the Warrington problems. Pensacola News Journal. The race for the District 2 school board seat is a rematch of the 2018 contest between Paul Fetsko and Raymond Guillory. Fetsko, the incumbent, said he wants to address teacher pay equity concerns and points to his experience on the board and as an assistant superintendent, while Guillory also wants to improve teacher salaries and retention but says the board needs a parent member. WEAR.

Okaloosa: School officials will create a new health-care training facility with the help of a $1.29 million grant the district has received from Triumph Gulf Coast, which distributes money from the settlement reached after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The academy, which will train students from Choctawhatchee, Fort Walton Beach and Niceville high schools, opens in January in Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. The hospital and the sheriff’s office are contributing an additional $1.1 million to complete the project. WKRG.

Bay: Nine county schools have been named schools of excellence for the 2021-2022 school year by the Florida Department of Education. Patronis Elementary, Surfside Middle, Tyndall Elementary, Bay Virtual, Bay Haven Middle, North Bay Haven Middle, NBH Career Academy, Rising Leaders Academy and University Academy were chosen because the number of points they earned in their school grade is in the 80th percentile or higher for schools in the same grade groupings in at least two of the last three school years. WJHG. WMBB.

Flagler: A former goalie for the Flagler Palm Coast High School soccer team is suing a Volusia County school over an injury he suffered during a game in 2019. Stephen Usina claimed he was “permanently and seriously injured” and lost college athletic scholarships when a player from Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach deliberately ran into him, a violation of the game rules. Usina further contends that Father Lopez coaches negligently “taught players to engage in specifically banned conduct that was likely to lead to serious injury.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WESH.

Jefferson: Jefferson County K-12 will collaborate with several organizations to become a community partnership school that offers education, health-care, social services and more in school. Other partners are the Children’s Home Society of Florida, the county health department, Florida State University, Florida A&M University and North Florida College. The concept was established in 2012 and has been adopted by more than 30 school statewide. Monticello News.

Colleges and universities: A proposal before the Florida Board of Governors would allow universities to use compliance with a state law restricting how race-related matters are taught in classrooms as one of seven factors in deciding whether to grant professors tenure. The law is the so-called “Stop WOKE Act,” and spells out the concepts that can be considered discriminatory if included in instruction. News Service of Florida. The chair of the committee that searched for a new president for the University of Florida said hundreds of people were interested in the job before the list was narrowed to 12 and then to a single finalist, Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska who was approved for the job by UF trustees this week. Rahul Patel said the 12 included nine sitting presidents of top research universities, and that half were women or people of color. But their identities are unknown because the search was done in secret under a newly approved law. Tampa Bay Times. UF student body president Lauren Lemasters faces impeachment for her support of Sasse. A resolution charges that Lemasters, who sits on the UF board of trustees, neglected her duty to represent students. Many students were strongly opposed to the selection of Sasse. Tampa Bay Times. Christian Hardigree, the regional chancellor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus since July, talks about her plans, the future of education and more. St. Pete Catalyst.

Around the nation: U.S. Education Department officials expect to begin approving the student debt relief applications of about 16 million borrowers this week, even though the program is on hold pending a decision by an appeals court on a challenge of the legality of the program by several states. Politico.

Opinions on schools: By trying too hard to protect their children and students during the COVID pandemic, parents and schools instead hurt them by placing their fears above all else. Charles J. Lockwood, Tampa Bay Times. School zoning laws are a relic from a bygone (and segregated) time without any school choice. In today’s era of dynamism, the downsides to zoning laws far outweigh their benefits. Parents are looking for change. We should give it to them by eliminating the archaic school zoning law requirements holding children back. Sean-Michael Pigeon, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff