Broward principal and 4 others reassigned over transgender girl playing school sports, and more

Around the state: A Broward County high school principal and four school employees are under investigation and have been reassigned over allegedly allowing a transgender girl to play on the volleyball team, state legislators’ budget requests include millions for school projects, a hearing is set Jan. 26 on a University of Florida pro-Palestinian group’s request for a preliminary injunction against the state’s order to disband, a member of the Alachua school district’s advisory committee says the school board may have violated the state’s Sunshine Law during two meetings to discuss district priorities, and Brevard schools’ book review committee will resume work Dec. 1 after a five-month pause. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A painting thought to be the work of the 16th-century Renaissance master Titian is on display with other art at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, a private Catholic school in Miami, through the middle of December. It’s from the collection of Federico Gandolfi Vannini, a fourth-generation art dealer from Florence who now lives in Miami. The school has its own gallery, but art history teacher Sylvie Daubar-San Juan says the school never before had an exhibition as prestigious as this. NPR. A woman who allegedly tried to hit a Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School student with her car to break up his fight with her 12-year-old son instead hit her son, causing cuts to his leg that required treatment at a hospital. She was taken into custody and faces undisclosed charges. WSVN.

Broward: Monarch High School’s principal and four other school employees are under investigation and have been reassigned to other jobs for reportedly allowing a transgender girl to play on the Coconut Creek school’s volleyball team. A law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 bars transgender girls from playing on female teams. Principal James Cecil, assistant principal Kenneth May, athletic director Dione Hester, information management technician Jessica Norton, and a temporary coach, Alex Burgess, are the focus of the investigation. The district’s decision comes a few weeks after a judge ruled against the Monarch student, who had filed a legal challenge against the state law. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WTVJ. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Orange: A West Orange High School’s student-led magazine that contains gender identity definitions is “in line” with the school district’s student publication policy, according to a district spokesperson, despite complaints from some parents that it violates state law. Orange County Republican Executive Committee chair Erin Huntley said records requests will be made to “be sure that school funds were not used for this project and policy was followed when sharing student information with a third party.” Florida’s Voice.

Palm Beach: A man who said he is a school district teacher has been arrested three times in eight days this month in West Palm Beach. Hawazin Gridley Wright, 43, was first arrested Nov. 19 when police said he disrupted a pro-Palestine rally while carrying a concealed knife. Last week he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of Ecstasy, and Sunday he was detained for allegedly threatening to kill a woman he had been dating who had cut off contact with him. School district officials have yet to confirm his employment. WPEC. WPTV.

Lee: Some middle and high school students returned from Thanksgiving break on Monday to discover that their district-issued Chromebooks had been hacked. The laptops took students to a video that had photos of what appeared to be hackers with the words “Cyber Monday” laid over top. School officials said it was a prank pulled by district students who will be disciplined, and that no student data was compromised. WBBH. WINK.

Brevard: After a five-month pause, the school district’s five-member book review committee will resume work Dec. 1. It will consider 31 book challenges, beginning with a complaint brought against Sold, a 2006 novel by Patricia McCormick that tells the story of a 13-year-old girl in Nepal experiencing sex trafficking. Dec. 15, the committee will consider The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Florida Today.

Osceola: A former baseball coach at Celebration High School has pleaded no contest to charges of unlawful use of a communication device and child abuse. Samuel Figueroa was arrested in April and accused of sexually assaulting multiple students. As part of the plea deal, he will be on probation for 10 years and won’t be allowed within 1,000 feet of areas where children congregate, but will not have to register as a sex offender. WFTV.

Escambia: A Pine Forest High School volunteer varsity cheer coach has been arrested and accused of stealing $7,000 from the squad that was going to be used to buy uniforms. Police said Cedriahanna Brooks-Hill split nearly half the money with members of her family. WEAR.

Alachua: A member of the school district’s advisory council said the school board may have violated the state’s Sunshine Law by holding meetings Oct. 23 and Nov. 14 that included inaudible discussions between board members during an open meeting. The meetings included discussions about the district’s priorities of academic achievement, professional learning, teacher recruitment and retention, and systems and organizational processes. Advisory council chair Amy Trask was initially told she was not welcome at the meetings. After arguing that she was legally entitled to attend, she was seated in the back of the room and could not hear any of the discussions by the four subcommittees. District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said because Trask was seated near the table of one of the groups, the meeting was legal. Trask said she is considering filing an ethics complaint with the district’s director of human resources. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: Construction begins next week on the school district’s first new high school in 25 years. When completed, Southend High School in Gulf Breeze will accommodate up to 1,800 students. The projected cost is $110 million. “The high schools in Gulf Breeze and Navarre are at or above capacity,” said Joey Harrell, assistant superintendent for administrative services. “This new high school is expected to help relieve some of the enrollment pressure felt by the other high schools in the south end of the county.” WEAR.

Bay: University of Central Florida officials have approved a grant to make Rutherford Middle and High schools community partnership schools. Under the terms of the partnership, the district, the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Gulf Coast State College and PanCare Health will provide free services that include health-care, clothing, meals, academic enrichment and tutoring, and more. WMBB.

Monroe: District officials are considering releasing students an hour early every Wednesday for the rest of the year as a way to reduce teacher burnout. Superintendent Theresa Axford said teachers can use the hour any way they wish. “We’ve got a revolving door of teachers leaving Monroe County for better working conditions,” Axford said. “We’ve got Dade and Broward and Brevard and all those counties that are right on our heels trying to pull teachers away.” School board members are expected to vote on the proposal in December, and if they approve it could take effect in January. WLRN.

Bradford: Bradford Elementary School officially opened this week, eight years after district officials began talking about building it. It was supposed to open in June, but was delayed by a late-arriving electrical part. Students have been going to school at the Southside Elementary building, which is one of the county’s oldest schools. No decision has been announced on how the district will use the Southside building. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Nearly a year after Ben Sasse was named president of the University of Florida, some students and faculty still wonder if he’s a good fit for the job or simply someone to carry out Gov. DeSantis’ vision for the school. Gainesville Sun. New College has hired the firm Ballard Partners to lobby for it before federal legislators. It also hired Sweet Sparkman Archiecture & Interiors to redevelop the Pei campus, named after the famed architect that designed it. Florida Politics. Nearly a dozen University of North Florida employees whose jobs focused on diversity have resigned this year. The state university system is expected to soon announce rules against spending to support diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Florida Times-Union. Santa Fe College has received $3 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to develop an associate degree in engineering. Main Street Daily News. Florida Gulf Coast University professor and researcher William Sanders recently discovered two new species of lichen on the school’s campus. Fort Myers News-Press. Gov. DeSantis has appointed a campaign donor, Ashley Bell Barnett, to the Board of Governors. Barnett is also the daughter of state Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

In the Legislature: With the start of the legislative session about six weeks away, lawmakers have already filed budget requests for about 1,500 projects that would collectively cost $3.1 billion. Among them: $40.2 million for a construction project at the University of North Florida, $36 million for a new workforce training building at Seminole State College of Florida, $26.2 million for a research wing for the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering at the University of West Florida, and $25.65 million to help Florida Atlantic University with issues such as increasing enrollment at its medical school. News Service of Florida.
Lawsuit hearing set: A district judge has scheduled a hearing Jan. 26 for a preliminary injunction request in the lawsuit filed by the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter against the University of Florida and the state over an attempt to shut down the organization. The group contends the order is a violation of the First Amendment, and wants to keep the chapter active during the legal process. The pro-Palestine chapter at the University of South Florida is also suing the state and the school. Florida Phoenix.

Around the nation: A Republican operative thinks that inserting divisive social issues into local school board races is a mistake, and contributed to his party’s losses in the November elections. “When Republicans talk about issues, when it comes just to education policy, it can’t really be about hot-button, culture-warrior type issues,” said Alex Stroman, the former executive director of South Carolina Republicans. “Because those issues only affect your base and they rally the others, on the left and the right. … The bad thing is that over the past couple of years both the left and the right have just gone a bit overboard when it comes to focusing on those issues — and taking away attention from what it should be on: increasing opportunities for students across the country.” Politico.

Opinions on schools: Only a small number of states have adopted enough “market lite” proposals, in combination, to begin to realize the potential of an education system driven by families and supply by educators. Every waitlist, in other words, is a policy failure. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps. With continually declining enrollment at our traditional public schools, low capital reserves, a low fund balance and parents increasingly choosing charter and private schools over traditional public schools, it’s time for Broward school board members to show leadership and make tough decisions. Broward school board member Torey Alston, Sun-Sentinel.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff