Voucher concerns from parents of disabled, Christian club blocked, Ladapo criticism at UF, and more

Around the state: Parents of disabled students in Florida say they’re concerned that the state’s expansion of K-12 scholarships will divert attention from their children and strain financial resources, a proposed Christian after-school program at a Broward elementary school has been scrapped after some parents complained it supports anti-LGBTQ views, some University of Florida professors contend state surgeon general and professor Joseph Ladapo has “sullied” the school’s reputation, and charges of not reporting a sexual assault have been dropped against a Palm Beach assistant principal. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Complaints from parents prompted the principal at Wilton Manors Elementary School to scrap a proposed after-school Christian club that would have would taught students in grades 3-5 morals and values from “a Biblical framework.” Adult volunteers would have had to sign a “statement of faith” that says, “We believe that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. … We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other.” Principal Tauri Eligon said he hadn’t properly vetted the club. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A charge of not reporting an alleged sexual assault in school last April to law enforcement has been dropped against Palm Beach Central High assistant principal Daniel Snider, who said he didn’t report it because he didn’t believe it happened. Prosecutors would have had to prove that Snider had a reason to believe the charge against a relative of his, and last week a circuit judge decided they couldn’t and dismissed the case. Charges are still pending against three other school administrators. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Lee: The district’s school proximity plan for middle schools will be the subject of Tuesday’s school board meeting. The plan for elementary schools, which rezones boundaries so students can attend schools closer to their neighborhoods and cut down on transportation costs, has already been approved by the board. A board vote on the middle school plan is expected in January. WINK.

Brevard: Six finalists have been chosen for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Jeffrey Draves, a social studies teacher at Viera High; Michelle Noble, a culinary arts teacher at Titusville High; Deborah Price, a 6th-grade teacher at Riviera Elementary; Colleen Rockstraw, a school counselor at Southwest Middle; Alicia Street, a district content specialist; and Ashley Varela, a 6th-grade teacher at Endeavour Elementary. The winner will be announced Feb. 1. Space Coast Daily.

Sarasota: Karen Rose is expected to named school board chair by her colleagues at their meeting Tuesday. The current chair is Bridget Ziegler. The board is also expected to approve the contract agreement between the district and its employees. It will increase pay by 4.5 percent for teachers rated highly effective and for all noninstructional employees, and 3.5 percent for all teachers rated effective. All employees will also get a 2 percent bonus. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. District officials are investing about $6 million to renovate the 40-acre school farm near McIntosh Middle School. Two large animal barns, a large covered arena, a greenhouse and a food science demonstration kitchen building will be added. WTVT. WTSP.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: St. Lucie’s and Martin’s school boards have approved school calendars for the 2024-2025 academic year, and Indian River’s is expected to in January. St. Lucie and Martin schools open for students Aug. 12. TCPalm.

Hernando: School board members have approved a contract agreement between the school district and the union representing noninstructional employees. The deal covers raises and increases in health insurance premiums, and will cost the district almost $759,000. Hernando Sun.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida professors who once had high expectations of Joseph Ladapo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ choice for surgeon general and hired as a professor, now say Ladapo has “sullied” the reputation of the school. Ladapo did not bring anticipated research grants, done research, and is rarely on campus, instead touting his vaccine skepticism and campaigning with DeSantis. Politico Florida. The University of Tampa incident that sparked a federal investigation involved a Jewish student who was called antisemitic slurs and then assaulted when he objected, according to the student’s father. A campus report said the two had just been “playing around.” Tampa Bay Times. Next spring the University of Florida will offer a class called Musical Storytelling with Taylor Swift and Other Iconic Female Artists. WOFL. Gainesville Sun. About 3 million Floridians have started but not finished college, but a program called Complete Tampa Bay aims to change that by having “completion coaches” push the “noncompleters” to return and finish. Tampa Bay Times. Jacksonville University’s law school is moving into the historic former Atlantic Bank building downtown next summer. Jacksonville Today.

Vouchers and special needs: Families of students with special needs say they’re worried that the expansion of state K-12 scholarships to all students will divert Florida’s attention from children with disabilities and strain financial resources. They want Florida to demand more accountability on spending by families with vouchers, and give priority to students with the greatest needs. “Don’t ruin it for the rest of us who aren’t doing crazy things. We’re not doing it because we want to and because it’s the new fad,” said Jessica Rowlands of Hillsborough County, whose son Evan has respiratory, neuromuscular and immunocompromised conditions. “This is not free money. This is not to pick an extremely expensive travel sport. This is to educate your child.” Tampa Bay Times.

Banned books documentary: Students at all K-12 levels talk about how the removal and restriction of books in Florida schools has affected them in a new documentary called The ABCs Of Book Banning. NPR.

Opinions on schools: With his compliant Republican Legislature, Gov. DeSantis has for now won his cultural wars on Florida’s campuses. But for those of us on the right and the left who believe in intellectual honesty, open and honest debate and academic freedom, our fight against these ideological intrusions must continue and, for the sake of our country, cannot be ultimately lost. William F. Felice, Tampa Bay Times. Moms for Liberty don’t just want the liberty to keep their kids ignorant, but yours as well. What a warped version of freedom. That’s why this holiday season might be a good time to buy some of the books being censored in Florida as gifts for others. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The state took it upon itself to legislate the morality of public school students by controlling what they can or cannot read in their schools. How dare it. This is not legitimate legislation. This is an exercise in dehumanization. Melanie Wicker, Fort Myers News-Press.

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BY NextSteps staff