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Hearing officer says Pasco schools may use Ramsey finance textbook, suit heard in case opposing DEI ban, Broward’s discipline program, and more

Around the state: A hearing officer has ruled that Pasco schools can use radio personality Dave Ramsey’s personal finance textbook in the district even though it includes biblical verses, a federal judge has promised a quick ruling after hearing arguments Monday in a lawsuit Monday filed by New College professors and students against a Florida law that prohibits university classes that “distort” history and funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, Broward’s alternative discipline program called Promise is ending after a decade in the school system but components of the program will continue at least until a new program is adopted, Volusia’s school district has recruited 54 international teachers this year to help with the teacher shortage, and the Florida Virtual School will provide instruction for students who are in the Department of Juvenile Justice system. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: The alternative discipline program called Promise is ending after a decade in the school system, but components of the program will continue at least until a new program is adopted, say district officials. Intervention and counseling services designed to help troubled students will continue, and the same curriculum will be used while the district develops a permanent replacement. Board member Allen Zeman said the district will replace Promise “with something that’s even better.” Students who commit minor crimes can still be sent to Pine Ridge Education Center for behavior interventions, but it will now be up to police whether criminal charges are filed for minor offenses. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Brightmont Academy, a private school that doesn’t operate on a traditional academic year, is opening a K-12 school in West Boca early next year, with a second school planned in Miami. Students have the option of 110 courses, and can get one-on-one tutoring in subjects they are struggling with, said school officials. The school also offers courses as a supplement to home-schooling. “We can have kids start with us to take a class or all their classes as needed,” said CEO and president Karen Buckner. “We like to say, we meet students where they are, whether that is right at grade level, above grade level, below grade level, we will meet them there.” Sun-Sentinel.

Pinellas: A 3rd-grade teacher at Sky View Elementary School in Pinellas Park was arrested Friday in Polk County and accused of driving under the influence. Deputies said Leslie Spence, 52, gave two breath samples that were both more than twice the legal limit. District officials said in a statement, “The teacher involved has been a dedicated employee for five years and remains employed with Pinellas County Schools. The district has an employee assistance program for all our employees. … We will continue to monitor this situation closely while working with law enforcement.” WFTS. WTSP. WFLA. WTVT. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Pasco: Radio personality Dave Ramsey’s personal finance textbook can be used in district schools even though it includes biblical verses, a hearing officer has ruled. The book, Foundations in Personal Finance, was approved by the state, a decision that has been upheld by hearing officer James A. Robinson after a challenge was launched by some Pasco parents who contended it violated the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution by quoting scripture. Robinson noted the book also quotes Aristotle, Maya Angelou, Winston Churchill and Yogi Berra, and said, “These citations contain maxims and adages on the topic of personal finance, debt, and thrift, and reflect basic truths generally accepted in the culture. There is no attempt to convert anyone to a particular religious viewpoint.” Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Volusia: The district is filling teaching vacancies by welcoming 54 international teachers this year from Ghana, the Philippines and Jamaica through the TPG Cultural Exchange and Educations Partners International programs. “We’ve been able to introduce over 50 highly qualified and certified teachers to our VCS family through this cultural exchange program who all bring multiple years of successful teaching experience in their home countries,” said Tiffany Fuller, coordinator of recruitment and retention. “Our campuses and students are getting rich exposure to other cultures, and the international teachers are learning so much about American culture and Florida in exchange.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. A new French language and culture immersion program is being launched in two elementary schools. About 1,600 K-5 students at Citrus Grove Elementary in DeLand and Spruce Creek Elementary in Port Orange will take French classes. “When you’re learning a second and a third and a fourth language, it’s not just a language that you’re learning,” said Superintendent Carmen Balgobin. “You’re also learning how to become biliterate and bicultural. This is about global citizenship right here.” WFTV.

Leon: School officials are asking parents and members of the community to fill out an online survey that focuses on the district’s branding and marketing. Among the questions being asked are whether “Leon County public schools are inclusive” and “academically rigorous/challenging,” and “what were the top 3 factors that drove your decision to not enroll your child in a Leon County public school?” District spokesman Chris Petley said they survey “is helping us identify ways to communicate and what the feeling of our district is and what people think of our school district for marketing purposes.” The survey closes Sunday at midnight. Tallahassee Democrat.

Martin: District officials have created a program to help students who have been affected by the war between Israel and Hamas. Teachers have been advised how to talk with students about the attacks, and students who need more counseling get it through the district’s mental health collaboration. “We wanted to make sure that our educators have the resources, really the information to support our kids,” said Paula Lewis, director of student services. “There could be something impacting, maybe due to the fact there’s this violence that has taken place, maybe a student is in some way feeling that they’re challenged with this and they need to process what’s happened. That information would give guidance in how a teacher, or school counselor, would be able to support a kid.” WPEC.

Hendry, Glades: A Hendry County School Board member is using the state’s education savings account program to find unbundled services for her 17-year-old autistic son in neighboring Glades County. Stephanie Busin has been home-schooling her son Anthony, but when he said he didn’t have any friends, she connected with Glades Superintendent Beth Barfield and got him enrolled part-time at Moore Haven Middle-High School. Anthony takes honors biology and honors American history and is also bass drummer for the high school band. The change has made all the difference, said Busin. “He’s doing well academically. He’s got friends. He’s working the lunchroom. He’s visiting with everybody. It’s awesome to see him embraced by this community and have this sense of belonging,” she said. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: A federal judge has promised a quick ruling after hearing arguments Monday in a lawsuit Monday filed by New College professors, students and others against a new Florida law prohibiting university classes that “distort” history and funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The plaintiffs contend the law “chills” their plans to teach or study material deemed “woke,” such as systemic racism, identity politics, or gender studies. The state argues no one has been harmed by the law, at least not yet, since the university system is still working its provisions into the curricula at the universities through the opening of fall semester next year. Showing harm is required to demonstrate standing to bring a suit. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Six students from the University of Florida’s Florida Student Policy Forum are lobbying the Letgislature for an amendment to the state constitution that would ban corporal punishment for students with disabilities and require parental consent for all cases. Corporal punishment, which is defined in Florida law as the use of physical force or contact on a student to maintain discipline, is legal in 19 school districts. During the 2020-2021 school year, 717 students in Florida public K-12 schools were paddled, spanked or struck by a teacher or principal. Independent Florida Alligator. Students at Nova Southeastern University in Davie knocked down a concrete “wall of hate” where anti-Semitic messages had been scrawled. The wall had been there for at least 20 years for students and staff to express themselves. “Tearing this down is a great symbolism of destroying negativity and removing from your life, especially because of the stuff that’s going around,” said one student. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

FLVS heads DJJ program: Florida Virtual School will provide in-person instruction for students who are in the Department of Juvenile Justice system, starting next July. The program, called the Florida Scholars Academy, will provide educational “pathways” to high-school diplomas, career and technical education credentials and enrollment in state colleges or universities. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Starting in January, California elementary school students will be taught to write in cursive. The bill, which was signed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is intended to help students in grades 1-6 read and write in cursive and read primary source historical documents. Eighteen states, including Florida, have laws requiring cursive instruction. USA Today. NPR.

Opinions on schools: It is of unspeakable importance to give people the space and flexibility to try new approaches in educational matters. Experimentation is literally the engine driving progress: novel approaches that improve the human condition. The education savings account mechanism gives families the incentive to maximize the utility of funding by seeking not just good education services, but the optimal services for the individual need of a particular child. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. A confluence of the public’s frustrations with college professors and postsecondary institutions in general has me worried about the immediate future of Florida’s public universities. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. One of the primary policy actions that we need to take is the drafting and passing “Early Learning for All” legislation. In doing so, we can take a meaningful step toward addressing the urgent need for quality early childhood education and combating the school-to-prison pipeline. Marcus Bright, Miami Herald. Florida isn’t convincing the best and brightest to come teach or study here; too many of the best and brightest already in Florida are getting out. Intelligent, curious people don’t like being told what they can and cannot read or discuss or think. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff