State to publish list of challenged books and materials, proposed Title IX rule ripped by Diaz, sports options expand, and more

Book challenge list: Members of the Florida Board of Education approved a new rule Wednesday that will require state officials to publish an annual list of library books and instructional materials that have been challenged. The list will include an explanation of why the materials were challenged, whether for alleged pornographic content or for being inappropriate for a grade level or age group, and the district’s “rationale for removing, discontinuing, or limiting access to the material or not taking any of these actions.” Objections would be due every June 30, with the state’s list being published by Aug. 30. News Service of FloridaOrlando Sentinel. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. defended a Miami-Dade school’s decision to restrict access to a poem read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration from its elementary students after a parent complained that it was meant to “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.” Diaz said, “The process worked. A parent has the right to make a complaint. But the process was put into effect and it worked where they deemed the proper placement of the books.” WLRN.

State blasts Title IX rule: A statement adopted Wednesday by the state Board of Education condemns a proposed U.S. Department of Education rule that would allow transgender athletes to play on teams that conform to their gender identity at schools that receive federal money. “The proposed regulation is a functional ban on states wishing to prevent biological males from competing on women’s sport teams,” state Education Commissioner Diaz and state university system chancellor Ray Rodrigues wrote in a letter to USDOE officials. A 2021 Florida law includes a ban on transgender females participating on girls high-school and college sports teams. “To try to eliminate the opportunities that have been created for girls is completely absurd, and I believe it is immoral,” Diaz said. News Service of Florida.

Sports options widened: On the same day he announced he was running for president, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that allows charter school and Florida Virtual School students to join athletic programs at participating private schools. The new law goes into effect July 1. Florida Politics. Office of the Governor. DeSantis’ presidential campaign is likely to put K-12 education in the national spotlight. Education Week.

Around the state: Pasco County teachers and other school workers will get average raises of about 9 percent for the 2023-2024 school year, Charlotte school board members approve a $180,000-a-year contract for incoming superintendent Mark Vianello, Pasco County commissioners reject a proposal to place a cell phone tower at the Starkey Ranch K-8 School after hearing concerns from residents about the potential health effects that radiation from the tower might have on their children, Indian River’s school board repeals a three-year-old racial equity policy to comply with state laws, and a member of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty submits a list of 65 books at a recent school board meeting that she called “offensive.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Some members of the black community are demanding that school board vice chair Danny Espino apologize to colleague Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall for trying to prevent her from attending a meeting of two board members in April. “That disrespect will not be tolerated by our community and we demand decisive action by this board that will make Bendross-Mindingall, and the community she represents, whole,” said Kenneth Kilpatrick, president of the Brownsville Civic Neighborhood Association. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: District officials have started an investigation into allegations that a Wharton High School teacher has harassed and bullied students for decades. At least five students have already been interviewed by an investigator about allegations they made against social studies teacher Todd Harvey. A review of Harvey’s personnel record reveals at least 23 complaints filed against him. Among them were charges that Harvey performed a Nazi salute, mocked Latino students and called a transgender student a slur. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: A former assistant principal at Terry Parker Sr. High School in Jacksonville was suspended without pay for 15 days by the school board Wednesday for grabbing one student by the neck and hitting another while trying to break up a fight at the school last year. Oscar Harris was moved out of the assistant principal’s job after the incident and has been working as a coordinator in instructional technology, a position that does not interact with students. WJAX.

Pasco: Voter approval of a four-year property tax referendum last fall will result in average pay raises of 9 percent for teachers and other school workers, starting July 1. Teachers will receive between $2,000 and $7,245, depending on experience, and support staff will get increases ranging from 80 cents an hour to $2.45 an hour, also depending on years of service. Tampa Bay Times. County commissioners have rejected a proposal to place a cell phone tower at the Starkey Ranch K-8 School after hearing concerns from residents about the potential health effects that radiation from the tower might have on their children. The project will be put on pause for 120 days to ask for new bids for a different location. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: An instructional assistant at Tropical Elementary School in Merritt Island has been arrested and accused of possessing child pornography. Sheriff’s deputies said James Cohen, 35, who also worked at the day-care center KinderCare in Merritt Island, had 170 videos and 10 images depicting children and infants. A KinderCare official said it has fired Cohen. WOFL. Florida Today. WKMG.

Escambia: Tim Smith, who was dismissed as the school district’s superintendent last week, said that the motion by school board member Paul Fetsko to fire him felt “like a strike of lightning.” Fetsko and colleague Kevin Adams cited Smith’s “failure” in handling controversial issues like book bans, student absences and teacher turnover, issues Smith acknowledged that he was ultimately responsible for even though he didn’t have control over them. But he harbors no resentment. “I wish those who voted to remove me, I really do wish them the best and I hope everybody can get back on board and move forward,” he said. “It’s time for me to leave. It just is.” Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: Interim school Superintendent Shane Andrew is denying a report that he spoke about the Bible during a meeting with school employees. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: A member of the local Moms for Liberty chapter submitted a list of 65 books at a recent school board meeting that she called “offensive.” Mariya Caulkins, the founder of the county Moms for Liberty chapter, said she won’t officially challenge the books but she expects the board will remove them now that members are aware of the objection. “Quite honestly, it’s a little surprising that they were relaxed about those pornographic books because they’re giving us, Moms for Liberty volunteers, guidance on how to fill in those lengthy forms. But in our opinion, they have to be removing those books themselves in order to cooperate with the law,” Calkins said. “They have to be more proactive and less relaxed about this issue.” District officials said no action will be taken without a formal complaint. Pensacola News Journal.

Indian River: Three years after adopting a racial equity policy, school board members have repealed it to comply with state laws that prohibit critical race theory and “unlawful discrimination,” including teaching that a person “by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.” A more generic, “safe, respectful and inclusive” policy that does not mention racism was adopted Wednesday. TCPalm.

Charlotte: School board members approved a contract for incoming superintendent Mark Vianello in a unanimous vote at Wednesday’s board meeting. Vianello, who starts June 14, will be paid $180,000 a year, $15,000 in moving expenses, $800 a month for mileage and other expenses, and bonuses of $7,500 if the district ranks in the top third of the state’s 67 districts during the 2023-2024 school year and $10,000 if it’s rated No. 1. Charlotte Sun. A Port Charlotte High School teacher was removed from the classroom after a photo showed a can of White Claw on a table. White Claw is an alcoholic seltzer water beverage. WBBH.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos from some of them. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Tallahassee Democrat. TCPalm. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Keys Weekly. Citrus County Chronicle. Jasmine Mazard-Larry graduated as valedictorian at Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School in Tampa this month with a grade point average of 8.07. She achieved that by completing Advanced Placement classes, the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program and taking dual-enrollment courses to also earn an associate’s degree from a local community college. Good Morning America.

Education podcasts: Amy Heflin, the senior manager for STEM curriculum at Florida Virtual School, talks about a new high school course program in artificial intelligence, how it will offer students a foundational knowledge of AI and its applications, and how students will benefit from it. reimaginED.

Around the nation: U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory this week saying that social media can be harmful to the mental health and well-being of children through bullying, harassment and violent and sexual content. He called for taking measures to safeguard social media use among teenagers in the same way that regulations are used for toys, transportation and medication. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: The argument that private school choice programs save taxpayer money has been compelling and straightforward for decades. But the mechanics of state K-12 funding formulas are also related to the costs of choice programs. If large shares of education dollars don’t follow students to their schools, that can increase costs for taxpayers. Ultimately, whether the high up-front costs of universal school choice is a down payment toward future savings is yet to be determined. At the very least, the growing costs suggest a strong appetite for education choices. Christian Barnard, Reason Foundation. It is curious that “indoctrination” and “hate messages” seem to be flagged mostly when when black authors write about being black, or when LGBTQ authors write about being queer. The adults must ask themselves why that’s the case before making books with those topics inaccessible to children. Miami Herald. We see at least three deficiencies with the directive requiring Broward students to have clear backpacks for the next school year. One, it’s not foolproof. A devious student could still hide a weapon inside an opaque covering. Two, there’s too little buy-in from parents and kids, so resistance is inevitable. Three, it does not apply to staff, visitors or volunteers on school grounds, and some parents are asking why. Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff