Hillsdale College ends ties with Leon school over sculpture controversy, bathroom bill, book reviews and more

Hillsdale cuts ties with Leon school: Hillsdale College officials announced Thursday that they have cut ties with the Tallahassee charter school that forced its principal to resign after 6th-graders were recently shown photos of Michelangelo’s nude David sculpture without their parents being notified first. Tallahassee Classical School’s license to use the conservative Michigan college’s curriculum has been “revoked and will expire at the end of the school year,” said college officials. “To set the record straight: This drama around teaching Michelangelo’s David sculpture, one of the most important works of art in existence, has become a distraction from, and a parody of, the actual aims of classical education,” Hillsdale said in news release. “Of course, Hillsdale’s K-12 art curriculum includes Michelangelo’s David and other works of art that depict the human form.” Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. Detroit News.

Bathroom bill: Legislation that would restrict the use of public school bathrooms to students according to their sex assigned at birth was approved Thursday by the Senate Rules Committee. “The direction that we are trying to go is the right one: We don’t want boys in girls bathrooms under the pretense that they’re girls, but they’re not — they’re boys,” said state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R- Melbourne. “And we don’t want girls going into boys bathrooms doing the exact same thing.” The proposal has to clear the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee before being considered by the full Senate. The House version of the bill was approved Tuesday, and has two more committees to clear all members vote on it. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Miami Herald.

Also in the Legislature: A Senate committee approved a bill Thursday that would an crack down on fans who interfere in sporting events and concerts. It’s now ready for a floor vote. The full House will consider its version of the proposal today. News Service of Florida. Members of the House are expected to vote today on a bill that would push back starting times for middle and high schools beginning in July 2026. Middle schools could start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. if the bill is approved. News Service of Florida. The House also is likely to vote today on bills that would dictate how pronouns are used in schools, whether school board elections would be partisan, and the use of social media in schools. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. About $37 million a year generated by the Florida Lottery for education would instead go to lottery retailers under a bill being considered in the House. WFLA.

Around the state: Flagler’s superintendent overturns a book review committee’s unanimous recommendation and bans the book The Nowhere Girls from school libraries, more than 50 Palm Beach County students were shocked to learn that a $4,000 college scholarship they thought would be renewed every year will not be, Broward school board members tentatively approve a plan to rezone 351 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, some students and educators in Miami-Dade give high marks to the state’s new testing system, the former Volusia charter school principal who was scammed for $100,000 in school funds from someone posing as Elon Musk on the Internet said she was “groomed,” and the president of the University of New Orleans has been named president of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The state’s new testing program, called Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST), is getting good reviews from district students and educators. FAST, which is shorter and taken on computers, is given three times a year and results are reported in time to help students identify areas where they need work. Augusto Santilli, a 5th-grader at the West Laboratory K-8 School in Coral Gables, likes knowing what he has to work on now instead of waiting until next year. “In some things, I did well, but some they said that I needed improvement, and they talk to me specifically in which parts I needed improvement,” Santilli said. “With the old format, it took us a long time to be able to make decisions based on the data that we received,” said Omar Riaz, the district’s assistant superintendent for data analysis. WTVJ.

Broward: A rezoning plan that will send 351 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to Coral Glades High was tentatively approved Wednesday by the school board, which first rejected a plan from interim superintendent Earlean Smiley to keep the school boundaries the same for another year. A final vote is expected April 12. “Board members, do not kick the can down the road. We have a duty to act in the safety of the students at MSD,” said board chair Lori Alhadeff. “Please have the courage today and take action.” Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: More than 50 2022 high school graduates who were awarded $4,000 scholarships from the TeamWork Education Foundation and were told they would be renewable annually were shocked to learn in January that TeamWork had instead decided to devote all its scholarship money to 42 students graduating this year. “This year, we wanted to make sure that we were able to give those who were starting out,” TeamWork Education Foundation executive director Kathleen Perry said. “Looking at funding sources for the year, we decided to prioritize first-year scholars.” The decision has left the students counting on the renewals scrambling to make up the money. Palm Beach Post. The principal of Duncan Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens was arrested Wednesday and accused of battery against his wife. Jupiter police said Phillip D’Amico, 56, kicked his wife in the leg and threw a picture at her after they argued about infidelity. D’Amico has been reassigned pending the results of a district investigation. WPTV. WPEC.

Lee: A special education teacher at Harns Marsh Elementary School was arrested Wednesday and accused of child abuse. Deputies said Adrean Johnson, 39, slapped a student in the face and hit the student with a ruler. Johnson was released from her probationary contract, according to district officials. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Brevard: School board members met Thursday for the first time since suspending interim superintendent Robert Schiller to discuss the search for a new leader. “I think that we’re in a good place,” said school board chair Matt Susin. “We have some really good applicants that are coming in.” The application deadline is today. Until that replacement is found, assistant superintendent Susan Hann is the acting superintendent. “We have a dynamic person who not only understands budgets, but she has the respect of people and at a time when people are concerned,” Susin said. “Know that we have somebody special.” WKMG. Kyle Schmitt, president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been hired as principal of Melbourne Central Catholic High School. He begins in July. Space Coast Daily.

Volusia: The charter school principal who gave $100,000 of the school’s money to an Internet scammer posing as Elon Musk said she was “groomed” by the person that defrauded her. “Grooming is when you talk to somebody and you believe in them, and they get you to trust them that this is really real, and so I fell for it. … I am a very smart lady. Well-educated. I fell for a scam,” said Jan McGee, principal of the Burns Science and Technology Charter in Oak Hill until her resignation this week. WESH. A 16-year-old student at the Richard Milburn Academy charter school in Daytona Beach was arrested Thursday and accused of having a gun and ammunition on campus. WFTV. WESH.

Bay: The district hired a dozen “highly effective” teachers during a recent job fair who will be assigned to seven of the district’s poorest-performing schools. The new teachers will receive bonuses of up to $15,000 to teach at Callaway, Cedar Grove, Lucille Moore, Parker, Waller and Merriam Cherry Street elementary schools, and Rutherford High. WMBB.

Hernando: School Superintendent John Stratton announced Thursday that he has applied for the open superintendent’s job in Brevard County, according to a press release from the school district. Stratton has led the district since 2018, and he said he is not resigning. “If the Brevard County School Board selects me, I will allow plenty of time to create a smooth transition here,” he said. “And if they do not select me, I plan to remain here as your superintendent.” He called the Brevard job a “growth opportunity.” Brevard is on its second interim leader since Mark Mullins left the superintendent’s position last November. Hernando County School District.

Flagler: School Superintendent Cathy Mittlestadt has disregarded the unanimous recommendation from a book review committee and said The Nowhere Girls will be banned. “I have made the decision not to retain this as a resource in Flagler Schools,” she said. “Though this decision does not align with the recommendation of the committee, I am confident that there are other materials that will address the literary intent of this book.” Another challenged book, Looking for Alaska, should continue to be available, the review committee recommended. Flagler Live.

Madison: A Madison County High School student was found in possession of a handgun at the school Thursday, according to sheriff’s deputies. The student was “observed” with a handgun at around 11 a.m., and was detained within a few minutes. WCTV. WTXL.

Jefferson: County commissioners are talking with the school board to gain control of the old Jefferson High School gymnasium and turn it into a facility for public use. “There’s not a community center at all in all of Monticello and Jefferson County. There’s not a community center, we don’t have a YMCA, we don’t have a Boys & Girls Club,” said commissioner Gene Hall. “Either helping us to renovate this structure or tear it down and build a whole brand new gym so we have indoor recreation for the young and young at heart.” WTXL.

Colleges and universities: John Nicklow, the president of the University of New Orleans, has been named president of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. He succeeds T. Dwayne McCay, who resigned in March 2022, to become the sixth president in the school’s 65-year history. Robert King has been the interim superintendent. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Construction has begun on a third dormitory for students at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. It’s expected to be completed by the fall of 2024 and will have 430 beds in one-, two- and four-bedroom suites. The school, which opened in 2014, has about 1,600 students. Lakeland Ledger.

Pornography and schools: An once-obscure chapter of Florida law has attracted a lot of attention recently. Chapter 847 said purchases of school textbooks and materials must be suited to student needs, appropriate for their age level and “free of pornography” or anything harmful to minors. But different interpretations of that chapter have led to confusion about what is pornography, resulting in several incidents that have focused less-than-flattering attention on the state. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Do students need access to private school scholarships or education savings accounts? The answer is … both. Jonathan Butcher, reimaginED. “Erring on the side of caution” is not a defense for educational malpractice. When did we become so fragile that the story of a young girl who helped integrate a school is considered threatening? Tampa Bay Times. There’s a real threat to students of New College that interim president Richard Corcoran should be concerned about, instead of the state’s almighty crusade against “wokeness.” Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff