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Florida and other states sue Meta and affiliates, state cracks down on pro-Palestinian campus groups, Bible back in Volusia schools, and more

Florida, other states sue Meta: Attorneys general from more than 40 states, including Florida, filed lawsuits Tuesday against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, contending the company is harming young people by addicting them to its various platforms such as Instagram and violating their privacy. “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. Florida chose to file a separate suit contending that Meta misled users about potential health risks. “Meta has gone unchecked for too long, and our children are suffering the consequences of these unlawful practices,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “Today, I took action to stop Meta from targeting minors with addictive features to keep them online for hours, collecting their data, and other unlawful actions that harm teens’ mental health.” Associated Press. News Service of Florida. CNN. New York Times. NPR. WPEC. Education Week.

Around the state: State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues ordered universities Tuesday to disband campus groups that have ties to the national Students for Justice in Palestine organization, the Bible is back on Volusia County school bookshelves after a review prompted by a challenge, Polk’s school board votes to join a class-action lawsuit against social media companies, a contract agreement between teachers and the Pinellas school district was approved by the school board, the number of Miami-Dade students using state scholarships is up 31 percent this year, and a Pasco County high school was closed Tuesday after a “suspicious substance” was found in the mail. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The number of students using a state voucher to attend a private school this year increased by nearly 13,700 this year over last year, or about 31 percent, according to Step Up For Students, which helps administer scholarship programs for the state and hosts this blog. Ron Steiger, the district’s chief academic officer, said the increase is “coming from students already attending private schools, or (students) in kindergarten who were already planning to attend a private school.” Last year 43,301 students used a voucher, and this year it increased to 56,970, he said. Miami-Dade is the nation’s third-largest district, with almost 336,000 students, which has been bolstered by a recent influx in immigration. Miami Herald. An employee at the Atlantis Academy-Miami L.I.F.E. Program private school was taken into custody after allegedly leaving a gun in a bag at the school Tuesday. The school teaches independent living skills for young adults with autism. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: A teacher’s aide at Collins Elementary School in Dania Beach has been removed from the classroom while district officials investigate an allegation that she used a ruler to physically discipline a 5-year-old student. Corporal punishment is not permitted in Broward schools. WSVN.

Hillsborough: A science experiment designed by 7th- and 8th-graders at Randall Middle School in Lithia has been chosen to ride on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station next month. Students want to see if a “Red Garnet” amaranth can maintain its germination rate in space, keep its nutritional value and provide the necessary daily nutrients needed by the astronauts. WFLA. WFTS.

Orange: Windermere High School in Winter Garden has gotten approval from the county commission to build a football stadium on campus. It will be built on the site of an existing practice field, and is expected to cost about $3 million and be ready for games next August. “It’s been 10 years coming,” said Commissioner Christine Moore, who was previously a school board member. “This is a happy day for me.” Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.

Polk: School board members voted Tuesday to join a class-action lawsuit against social media companies that contends that contends they contribute to mental health problems for students. The suit is going after the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. “At this point, it appears that about half the school districts in Florida have joined litigation, this one or similar, as well as school districts across the country,” said board attorney Wes Bridges. The school board also approved a $752,000 settlement with e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs. Superintendent Frederick Heid said the money will be used to place vaping detection devices in school restrooms and support anti-tobacco and anti-vaping campaigns in schools. WFLA.

Pinellas: School board members have approved a contract agreement between the district and its teachers. The deal raises starting teacher pay from $50,568 to $52,000 and provides an average raise of 4.5 percent for all teachers. “This is the largest raise I’ve ever seen in my seven years of teaching,” said Brennan Pickett, a St. Petersburg High School teacher. “I could be seeing an extra $100 on my paycheck every two weeks. It’s not going to change my life, but it does help.” WTVT. A 6th-grader at Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater was arrested Tuesday and accused of bringing a knife to school. Police said after the 12-year-old had been slapped by another student at the bus stop, he went home to get an 8-inch knife and then threatened that student with it. WTVT.

Pasco: Land O’Lakes High School was closed “out of an abundance of caution” Tuesday after a “report of a suspicious substance” found in the mail at the school. By 9 a.m., deputies said, the substance “was determined to be non-hazardous in nature.” Classes resume today. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA. WTVT.

Seminole: Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs is using a virtual platform to teach algebra II as it continues to look for a classroom teacher. The virtual instructor from the National Training Network is certified, said school officials. “I think districts have to get creative with what those solutions look like,” said Nicole Powers, president of NTN. She said virtual instruction will never replace a qualified teacher in the classroom, but that it promotes more engagement than students working independently. WKMG.

Volusia: The Bible is back on district bookshelves after it had been temporarily removed for a review. School officials said they discovered during the review that the Bible is protected by state law. “The law was passed by the Legislature and where folks are coming to us with it, the reality is you go to the Legislature with it,” school board member Ruben Colon said at Tuesday’s meeting. “They’re the ones that pass the laws.” Christina Quinn challenged the book for having what she said is “sexually explicit content. I wouldn’t say it’s just to prove a point. … It is basically saying … we can’t pick some and not pick others when they both have similar material.” WOFL.

Collier: A hearing on an ethics complaint against Superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli filed in May was held last Friday. In the complaint, a Naples resident said Ricciardelli violated state law by not disclosing that she leased a Mercedes or had $18,000 in unpaid fines because her husband didn’t get a permit for new construction on their property. Ricciardelli said she was unaware she had to report her car as intangible property. The Florida Commission on Ethics will decide if any laws were violated, and whether to impose a punishment. Naples Daily News.

Alachua: Last year, most of the candidates running for school board seats said they wanted to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. Now the school board has decided it’s satisfied with interim Shane Andrew and has decided against such a search. Instead, it will discuss a contract for Andrew at its Dec. 5 meeting. What changed? Gainesville Sun. A pilot program to help teach kindergarten and 1st-grade students how to ask on-topic questions that will lead them to answers was successful enough last year that the district is expanding it to all elementary and pre-kindergarten schools this fall. AskMeno helps teachers train children to ask who, what, where, when, why and how questions so they won’t lose focus on the lesson. Main Street Daily News.

Hendry: Clewiston High School’s football team has been suspended and is under investigation by the Florida High School Athletic Association after a fight broke out during the third quarter of last week’s game against Inlet Grove High School. “The incident that took place last week at the varsity football game versus Inlet Grove High School does not reflect the standards nor the values of both Clewiston High and the Hendry County School District,” the district said in a statement. Homecoming activities will be held next week even if the football team remains on suspension, according to school officials. WFTX. WINK. WBBH.

Colleges and universities: State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues ordered universities Tuesday to disband campus groups that have ties to the national Students for Justice in Palestine organization. There are at least two chapters, at the University of Florida and University of South Florida, and the state contends they offer “harmful support for terrorist groups” like Hamas. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WCJB. State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said Tuesday that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failure to crack down on pro-Hamas supporters at state universities after the group’s assault on Israel earlier this month convinced him to shift his support for the Republican presidential nomination to Donald Trump. “We can vote for the governor who says all the right things, or we can vote for the president who actually does them,” Fine, who is Jewish, wrote in the Washington Times. A spokesman for DeSantis’ campaign called Fine’s endorsement “shameful political theater,” and DeSantis said Fine will not be the next president of Florida Atlantic University, a position Fine was reported to be interested in and that DeSantis had encouraged him to seek. Politico Florida. Florida Today. Changes are being made to the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid form that state educators hope will increase the number of students applying. Florida ranks near the bottom in applications. It’s estimated that $300 million in aid goes unused every year in the state. Tampa Bay Times. Florida State University trustees will vote Friday on a plan to issue $265 million in bonds to renovate Doak Campbell Stadium, home of the football team. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Nearly 90 percent of Americans believe students should do active-shooter drills in schools, but only a third support the use of the sound of a gun or gunshots during the drills. NPR. Ipsos.

Opinions on schools: This new assault on higher education is yet another attempt to stop push back on the fundamentalist conservative Christian thought Gov. DeSantis wants in Florida. That’s what he wants a state once celebrated for its diversity, openness and first-class public education to stand for: state indoctrination. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff