DeSantis vows to fight ‘woke mob,’ Pasco changing bathroom policy, drone law concerns, and more

DeSantis sworn in: In his inaugural speech Tuesday for his second term in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis touted Florida as the “land of sanity” and vowed to continue to fight against the “woke mob” in education and the workplace, give parents more control over directing their children’s schooling and offer “record tax relief” for families. “We will enact more family-friendly policies to make it easier to raise children, and we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence,” he said. “We reject this woke ideology. We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy. We will not allow reality, facts, and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.” His remarks largely focused on his accomplishments in the past four years, including educational changes, ending “judicial activism,” spending money on the environment, addressing “deficiencies in Florida’s election administration” and standing for “law and order,” but made no mention of his widely expected run for the presidency in 2024. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. USA Today Florida Network. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Fox News. Daily Signal.

Around the state: Pasco school officials said they will enact a policy requiring students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex at birth in order to comply with a recent appeals court decision in a St. Johns County case, the opinion of that appeals court suggests the reasoning behind the decision could also apply to ban transgender females from playing on women’s sports teams, a teacher in a Gulf County school drone program said a state law requiring schools to use only American-made equipment will have an impact on the program, and Florida professors are canceling classes and modifying their teaching as a result of the state’s restrictions on the teaching of critical race theory because they worry they could be fired if they don’t. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: When Gov. DeSantis appoints a successor for school board vice chair Lubby Navarro, it will add a fourth member to the nine-member board who is aligned with his education policies. Navarro resigned when a new law went into effect Jan. 1 that prohibits elected officials from working as lobbyists. The governor has not indicated when he’ll appoint a replacement, but the school board will elect a new vice chair at its Jan. 18 meeting. Navarro’s successor will fill out the last two years of her four-year term. Miami Herald. WLRN.

Pasco: School officials said they will adopt a policy requiring students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex at birth. Transgender students will have access to single-stall private bathrooms. Superintendent Kurt Browning said the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision in a St. Johns County case prompted the change after the district had declined to dictate bathroom use for transgender students for the past five years. “It would be disingenuous of us to use the St. Johns case for the last five years and not use the 11th Circuit case as the basis of our decision making,” Browning said. District officials will formalize the policy over the next 30 days. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Bradford: The father of a student killed in the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Broward County has helped arrange the donation of guns and other equipment to the sheriff’s office to be used by resource officers in county schools. Andrew Pollack teamed with Byrna, a company that distributes self-defense equipment, to provide eight backpacks with AR pistols and body armor that can be easily accessed during an emergency. Breitbart.

Gulf: The impact of a 2021 law that requires Florida schools to use only American-made drone technology as of Jan. 1 will have an impact on Gulf schools, said a teacher in the Wewahitchka High School’s drone training program. Eric Bidwell said Gulf schools mostly use drones manufactured by the Chinese company DJI, which are significantly less expensive than drones built by American companies. “I believe we spent about $15,000 to $25,000 on our original set of bones,” said Bidwell. “So if we were to put all those to the side and start over, if we were going to replace it with a comparable, you’re probably looking at $40,000 to $50,000 just to be up and flying. … We’re not going to be able to do that. We’re going to have to buy just a minimum two or three (drones) per school, which doesn’t cripple us, but it sure does handicap us.” Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: Florida professors are canceling classes and modifying their teaching as a result of the state’s restrictions on the teaching of critical race theory because they worry they could be fired if they don’t. Jonathan Cox, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Central Florida, canceled two scheduled fall courses that would have explored “racial ideology and color-blindness” and “the myth of a color-blind society,” sending students scrambling for alternatives. “It didn’t seem like it was worth the risk,” said Cox. “I’m completely unprotected. … Somebody who’s not even in the class could come after me. Somebody sees the course catalog, complains to a legislator — next thing I know, I’m out of a job.” ProPublica. Rising fees for student health insurance premiums and allowing students to access on-campus clinics and other services are causing sticker shock for parents of incoming college freshmen. While the costs vary by school, they can amount to several thousand dollars a year. Florida Phoenix.

Potential law changes: A bill has been filed for the 60-day legislative session that begins in March that would require all colleges and universities and their employees to direct endorsement opportunities to student-athletes. Currently, compensation “may only be provided by a third party unaffiliated with the intercollegiate athlete’s postsecondary educational institution.” The bill was filed by state Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point. News Service of Florida. Florida’s Department of Education is considering a rule change that would remove “COVID-19 harassment” as justification for students to apply for Hope Scholarships from the state. The scholarship began in 2019 as a way for bullied students to transfer, and was expanded. News Service of Florida.

Bathroom ban decision: A federal appeals court that upheld the St. Johns County School District’s policy prohibiting a male transgender student from using boys bathrooms suggested that the reasoning behind its decision could also apply to ban transgender females from playing on women’s sports teams. The majority opinion said that “affirming the district court’s order would have broad implications for sex-separated sports teams at institutions subject to Title IX, including public schools and public and private universities.” News Service of Florida.

Purple Heart schools: A hundred and twenty-one Florida schools have earned the designation as Purple Star Schools of Distinction, but only two are private Catholic schools. Sacred Heart Catholic School in Jacksonville and St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Pensacola both qualified by establishing a school contact to assist military families, setting up and maintaining a military web page linked to the school website with information for children of members of the military, having a student-led transition program, training school employees on identifying and responding to the needs of military students, having an open enrollment policy that reserves at least 5 percent of seats for military students, and having at least three activities to recognize and support military families. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Since the 1983 publication of the A Nation at Risk, Americans have been furiously buying various ACME legislative products in the hope of both improving the quality of K-12 education overall and of closing the achievement gap between white and black students. The NAEP exam results released this year reveal we have little to show in aggregate for our efforts. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff