Social media ban at K-12 schools gets initial OK, period questions, Broward leadership, and more

Social media ban: K-12 schools would be required to block student access to TikTok and other social media on campuses under a bill approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Committee on PreK-12 Education. S.B. 52 would also require schools to teach students about the potential dangers of using those apps. “These kids are walking around with a live digital hand grenade, and we’re not educating them on the safe use of it,” said state Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, the bill’s sponsor. S.B. 52 now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education for consideration. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WTSP. While about 71 percent of the state’s students qualify for scholarship programs, only about 6 percent receive money from the state, according to a presentation made Tuesday to members of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. Florida Politics. Which Florida counties might be most interested in an expanded scholarship program? Florida Phoenix.

Period data reconsidered: Florida High School Athletic Association directors will hold a special meeting Thursday to reconsider a controversial proposal that would require student-athletes to report their menstrual histories on participation forms. Executive director Craig Damon is now recommending that students submit just one page of personal information, and nothing about their periods. “The intent of this proposal is to provide an updated (examination) form which protects a student-athlete’s privacy while including pertinent medical information a health-care provider at a member school would need access to,” the agenda item reads. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. WFTV. Miami Herald.

Around the state: Broward school board members finalized a severance agreement with Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and hired Earlean Smiley as her interim replacement, St. Johns County school officials remove 23 books from school library shelves, Duval removes biographies about baseball legends Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente from schools, Sarasota board members appoint an interim superintendent and also vote to keep a challenged anti-racism book but with restrictions for middle-schoolers, Lee school board members approve a proximity enrollment plan to cut down on transportation costs, a Pasco high school principal has announced his candidacy for the superintendent’s job in the 2024 election, and new University of Florida president Ben Sasse said the school wants to “explore opportunities” to expand the school’s operations in Jacksonville. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: County prosecutors said Tuesday they would file battery charges against a 15-year-old student who beat a 9-year-old girl on a school bus last week. The incident was recorded, and the video got millions of looks on social media. The girl is a student at Coconut Palm K-8 Academy in Homestead. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. WSVN.

Broward: School board members agreed Tuesday to pay Superintendent Vickie Cartwright a $268,000 severance package and voted 7-2 to hire Earlean Smiley, 71, a retired former Broward deputy superintendent and former principal at Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach, as interim superintendent. Since 2014, Smiley has been an educational consultant for In Rem Solutions Inc. and Assistance Unlimited Inc., where she designed a K-8 learning model and provided training for teachers and administrators. Until Smiley and the board agree on a contract, a process that could take a week, associate superintendent Valerie Wanza will serve as the “tasked assigned” superintendent. Cartwright and the board recently agreed to part ways and negotiated a $366,000 separation agreement, but board members rejected a provision paying her $98,000 to work 60 days as a consultant, and she leaves the district immediately. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. WLRN. Board members also approved a contract agreement between district officials and the teachers union. It calls for teachers to receive raises of up to 5 percent, depending on experience and performance, and $1,000 bonuses, retroactive to July 1, 2022. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: Four new teachers recently told a group of teaching interns that the job is hard, they sometimes cry in their cars and they worry about how new laws will affect their work, but they love their jobs and have no plans to give up. “I’m excited to finish my first year of teaching,” Caroline Schanck, a 2nd grade teacher at Shore Elementary, told the interns at the training session. “What’s scary is the number of teachers leaving the profession. I don’t know what that looks like for our career. All I can do is keep showing up and doing my job. I try not to think too much about things like that because it’s what I chose to do and I love it.” Tampa Bay Times. A 24-year-old teacher’s aide at Freedom High School in Tampa has been arrested and accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student. Deputies said Briona Inman befriended the student at school, then took him to her home for sex. Inman has been fired, according to district officials. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Palm Beach: A former volunteer junior varsity cheer coach at Boynton Beach High School has pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful use of a two-way communications device and committing anoffense against a student by an authority figure. Kassidy Sottilare, 28, connected with a 14-year-old student on social media and pursued her for a romantic relationship. Sottilare was arrested in February 2022. WPEC.

Duval: Among the 176 books removed from district school libraries since December are biographies about black baseball legends Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente, who had to overcome racism to make it to the major leagues, according to the nonprofit organization PEN America, which supports free expression. MSN. Audacy.

Lee: School board members have unanimously approved a “proximity” plan to change school enrollment zones so students will be closer to their schools and the district can cut transportation costs. The district’s bus plan was set up to handle 60,000 students but there are now 100,000, and there is the ongoing shortage of bus drivers. “Our system is broken, there’s no question about it,” said Superintendent Christopher Bernier. “We need to do something different or 3,000 children who are going to be late every day right now is going to increase exponentially.” WFTX.

Pasco: A longtime district teacher and administrator has announced he’ll run for the superintendent’s job in the 2024 election. Chris Dunning, 50, who is the principal of Krinn Technical High School, joins a race that already includes former state lawmaker John Legg and parent activist Michelle Mandarin, both running as Republicans. Dunning said he will run without a party affiliation. “I don’t feel like it should be a partisan position,” he said. “It’s about educating kids. It shouldn’t be about politics.” If elected, he wants to create new programs to help families prepare their children for reading before they enter kindergarten, improve communication with parents and increase transportation safety. Tampa Bay Times.

Manatee: Former school board member Scott Hopes resigned as county administrator Tuesday after less than two years on the job. No reason was given, but Hopes had been accused of mismanaging staff and abusing his office, and earlier this year a deputy administrator he wanted to hire withdrew after he was accused of sexual harassment. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Observer.

St. Johns: District officials have removed 23 books from school library shelves and more are being reviewed for content that would put them out of compliance with state law. Ninety books have now been challenged and gone through the district’s process. Twenty have been marked “pending,” which remain available to students while they’re being reviewed, 14 have been cleared to remain in libraries, 23 have been restricted to certain age groups, and 23 are no longer accessible. WJXT.

Sarasota: Allison Foster, the school district’s executive director of human resources, was unanimously appointed interim superintendent Tuesday by the school board while it searches for a permanent replacement for Brennan Asplen, who was fired in December. Chris Renouf, who had been acting superintendent since Asplen left, returns to his job as assistant superintendent and chief academic officer. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. WWSB. WFLA. WTSP. School board members narrowly voted Tuesday to keep an anti-racism book on middle and high school library shelves, but will require students in grades 6-8 to have permission from a parent to check it out. A woman who objected to the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, lost her initial challenge, leading to Tuesday’s appeal. Board members Tim Enos, Robyn Marinelli and Karen Rose voted to keep the book with the parental consent requirement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. WTSP.

Bay: A volunteer track coach at North Bay Haven High School has been arrested and accused of secretly recording a 14-year-old girl while she showered and changed in his home. District officials said Daniel Gilbert Franklin, 56, has been fired. WMBB. WJHG.

Flagler: More than 80 percent of school district employees said they do not want to be armed on campus, according to an online survey conducted by the district. That mirrors the results of a 2018 survey conducted by the Florida Education Association teachers union, which found 82 percent would not carry a gun at school. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: New University of Florida President Ben Sasse announced Tuesday that the school wants to “explore opportunities” to expand its operations in Jacksonville. The campus would focus on graduate students in medicine, business and engineering fields, especially in technology, and require a three-year, $50 million investment from the city as well as $50 million in private funding. Florida Times-Union. WUFT. WKMG. WCJB. Saying there are “too many unknowns to proceed,” University of South Florida President Rhea Law has ended a national search for the university’s top diversity officer. Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed legislation to end funding for schools from supporting diversity, equity and inclusion programs so they will “wither on the vine.” Tampa Bay Times. In 2020, after George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Florida’s Board of Governors reacted by encouraging colleges and universities to prioritize diversity, inclusion and equity programs “to work to repair the racial divide and restore equal justice for all Americans,” said then-BOG chair Sidney Kitson, who was appointed by Gov. DeSantis. Less than three years later, DeSantis wants to dismantle those programs. USA Today Florida Network. Florida State University officials are concerned about the decline in the number of black students. Black enrollment dropped 7 percent, from 3,961 to 3,680 from the fall of 2021 to the fall of 2022. “The trend is not one that we’re very happy with, and it’s one that we’re working diligently to correct,” said John Barnhill, associate vice president for academic affairs. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the nation: More than 46,000 Arizona students use education savings accounts that provide each with about $7,000 a year to purchase education services. But records show that some are using the money to buy chicken coops, trampolines, kayaks, cowboy roping lessons, tickets to entertainment venues like SeaWorld and more. Former state education superintendent Kathy Hoffman said she opposed the expansion of ESAs because the rules are “incredibly permissive. … As long as an item can be tied to a curriculum — with curriculum being ill-defined and open to interpretation — that meets the definition of an allowable expense.” Nine states now have ESAs, and six others — including Florida — are considering them. The 74. A recent survey found that 51 percent of respondents think school choice programs provide better educational opportunities for students, while 19 percent do not and 30 percent aren’t sure. It also found that 57 percent favor the creation of more charter schools, and 60 percent favor voucher programs in which tax dollars follow students to the schools of their parents’ choice. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Rather than accepting an education system designed to teach to the average, parents are rightfully demanding a system that is individualized and empowers each student to achieve his full potential. This student-centered movement is finally making public education work for the students and families it exists to serve. Jeb Bush, Wall Street Journal. As a researcher of student achievement, I find Florida’s recent policies and its education agenda antithetical to fostering student success and promoting democratic values. Anindya Kundu, Miami Herald. Gov. DeSantis exerting political control on education and punishing anyone who disagrees with him, including mega-corporation Disney, ought to send shivers down the spine of any Miamian who has fled authoritarian regimes. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff