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Bill would financially punish college students who ‘promote’ Hamas or other terrorists, deregulation bills move, rains close Broward schools, and more

Terrorist-supporting students targeted: College students who “promote terrorist organizations” such as Hamas or the Palestine Liberation Organization would face financial penalties under identical bills filed this week in the Florida Senate and House. What constitutes promoting is not spelled out in H.B. 465, filed by state Rep. John Temple, R-Wildwood, or S.B. 470, sponsored by state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill. Students who violate the laws could lose scholarships and grants and be assessed out-of-state tuition. “Florida taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing the education of terrorist sympathizers who wish to do us, and others, harm,” said Ingolgia. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 9. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WJAX.

Deregulation bills advance: Three bills intended to cut back on the regulation of public schools were unanimously approved Wednesday by the Senate PreK-12 Education Committee. Among other things, the bills (SPB 7000, SPB 7002, SPB 7004) would repeal the requirement that high school students pass the state’s standardized English-language arts exam in 10th grade and the algebra I end-of-course assessment to receive high-school diplomas, that 3rd-graders who fail the state reading test be automatically retained, and would give districts flexibility on how to structure the required 100 minutes of recess a week for elementary students instead of mandating they be given 20 uninterrupted minutes of unstructured play every day. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. WKMG. Florida Senate. No one except a school principal would be authorized to mete out corporal punishment to public school students under a bill proposed by state Rep. Katherine Waldron, D-Wellington. Special needs and homeless students and those in alternative schools would be exempt from corporal punishment. The bill also requires a permission slip from parents to strike a student, and principals who administer the punishment would be required to explain their decision to do so in writing. WFTV.

Around the state: Broward schools are closed today because of heavy rains and flooding, speed detection cameras will soon be added in 29 Hillsborough County school zones, Palm Beach will spend up to $4 million to have “safety and security window film” installed at select schools, Brevard school board chair Matt Susin said arming teachers is not being considered, “proximity zoning” is being planned for St. Lucie schools, teacher retention is a top priority in Martin schools, Tallahassee Community College trustees sign off on changing the school’s name to Tallahassee State College, and the Marion and Columbia school districts announce their educators of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The band director of South Dade Senior High School has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students. Police said Scott Michael Davis, 47, began a “romantic and physical” relationship with the student in September. Davis has been charged with sexual activity with a minor, offenses against a student by an authority figure and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He’s been fired, according to school officials. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: District schools and Broward College are closed today after two days of heavy rain caused widespread flooding, with more rain expected and flash flood warnings issued for today. Roadways are overrun with water  and choked with stalled cars, and dozens of crashes have been reported. Also canceled are all before- and after-school activities. “Maintenance and facilities personnel … will be canvassing schools to assess if any campuses experience water intrusions or other damages,” the district said in a statement. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. A 1st-grade teacher at Watkins Elementary School in Pembroke Park has been arrested and accused of child neglect. Police said Rhonda Angelina Daniels Bishop, 57, punished a student by “poking him” with a push pin. WPLG.

Hillsborough: County commissioners have approved adding speed detection cameras in 29 district school zones. Cameras will be operational only when students are going to and leaving schools. Drivers going more than 10 mph over the speed limit during those hours will be mailed a $100 ticket. “The bulk of the money goes directly back to the sheriff’s that must be used to promote school safety,” said county commissioner Joshua Wostal. “It’s not a money grab. It’s purely an incentive to encourage people to slow down 11 miles over the speed limit, which is pretty generous.” WTVT. WFLA. School board members voted unanimously to keep the book Blankets in the Plant City High School library. It’s a graphic novel by Craig Thompson with themes about religion and first love. Some parents complained that the drawings are not appropriate for children. Spectrum News 9.

Palm Beach: School board members have approved spending up to $4 million to have “safety and security window film” installed at select schools. The film will be applied to windows that are not impact-resistant, Superintendent Michael Burke said, “so that it basically gives them the strength of an impact window.” WPTV.

Brevard: School board chair Matt Susin said this week that the board has not considered the idea of arming teachers. He said that idea was “perpetuated by a news organization and an off-the-wall organization,” and that “nobody has talked about it.” Despite his statement, more than a dozen members of the community spoke against arming teachers at this week’s board meeting. The board also voted against using a list of books removed from other school library as a guide to the Brevard district’s actions. Florida Today. WFTV.

Marion: Michelle Cino of Ocala Springs Elementary School has been chosen as the school district’s principal of the year, and Rebekah Cook of Horizon Academy in Marion Oaks has been named the top assistant principal. Both now are eligible for the statewide awards. WCJB.

St. Lucie: District officials are planning to switch to “proximity zoning” to place students in schools that are closer to their homes as a way to save on rising transportation costs. “Currently, we spend about $28 million for transportation for students in the district annually,” said Superintendent Jon Prince. “As we grow, those transportation costs are going to get more and more and more, and it’s going to be untenable in the near future.” A consultant will be hired to help with the reassignments, which are expected to take effect in the fall of 2025. WPTV.

Hernando: Linda Prescott has been elected chair of the school board by her colleagues at this week’s board meeting, and Susan Duval was re-elected vice chair. Board members also approved the hiring of the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman law firm to represent the board. The firm’s Ayanna Hypolite will be the board’s primary attorney. Hernando County School District.

Martin: More than 40 percent of the school district’s teachers, a total of 456, have quit in the past four years, according to a district retention committee. Reasons for resigning focused on inadequate systems of support, inadequate salary and benefits, and personal reasons. More than 120 of those who left did so within a year of being hired. Among the possible solutions offered by committee members were providing mentors for new teachers, targeted professional development, and on the job support in the classroom for teacher during live instruction. WPBF.

Columbia: Marjorie Pollock, a 5th-grader teacher at Westside Elementary School in Lake City, has been selected as the school district’s teacher of the year. Syreeta Jackson-Lee of Fort White Elementary School was named the district’s principal of the year, and Mike Paphides of Columbia High School was chosen as the top assistant principal. All are now eligible for the statewide awards. WCJB.

Okeechobee: Two Jupiter police officers were honored this week by the school board for preventing a possible mass shooting at Okeechobee High School last fall. Officer Kevin Sales-Lopez pulled over a motorist with a broken headlight and said he sensed something was not right, He asked the driver if he could search the car and when he did, he found detailed plans for a shooting attack at the school and a knife attack in Miami. Sales-Lopez and officer Christian Wyatt then took Henry Horton IV of Okeechobee into custody. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: Tallahassee Community College trustees have approved a proposal to change the school’s name to Tallahassee State College. Renaming and rebranding costs, which include signs, publications, documentation and advertising, are expected to be about $500,000. Lawmakers will have to sign off on the change at the legislative session that begins Jan. 9. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. A teacher-to-classroom program that began at the University of Miami in January is expanding to Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. The program helps non-education majors become teachers after they take a one-semester class in their senior year, work in a six-week paid summer internship, get certified and then begin teaching at a Miami-Dade public school. Miami Herald. Donna Adelson, the mother of the man convicted last week of arranging the 2014 contract killing of his brother-in-law, a Florida State University professor, was arrested Monday as she and her husband were about to board a one-way flight to Dubai and Vietnam, which do not have extradition treaties with the United States. Associated Press. Tallahassee Democrat.

Elementary, middle school rankings: Jacksonville Beach Elementary School in Duval County is the best elementary school in the state and Doral Academy of Technology in Miami-Dade County is the best middle school, according to new rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Ratings are based from U.S. Department of Education data that focus on student proficiency in core subject areas. Patch.

Around the nation: Black and Hispanic K-12 students have less access to certified teachers, counselors and advanced classes than their white classmates, according to data release Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education. Those inequities have lasting and far-reaching effects on those students, the study concludes. Associated Press. A revised federal student aid application form will be available by Dec. 31, U.S. DOE officials said Wednesday, but they warned delays in processing are expected for the first few months of 2024 that could lead to longer wait times for students to receive financial aid. Politico.

Opinions on schools: There needs to be a logical and legal way for school officials to remove a teacher who has behaved in an erratic manner with weapons before he harms a student. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff

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