Senate scraps ending recess mandate, athletics officials fine Broward high school, teacher arrested and more

Around the state: Athletics officials fined a Broward County high school, state elementary school students may not lose their daily recess break, a school board member in Sarasota was asked to step down, year-round classes have been proposed in one district and New College has a preliminary agreement for a major land purchase. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A teacher is being accused of sending explicit photos and money to a middle school student, according to police. Mauricio Alexander Ruiz, 29, was charged with offenses against students by an authority figure. The math teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School has since been released from county jail on a $7,500 bond, court records show. Miami Herald.

Broward: State athletics officials have fined a Broward County high school for allowing a transgender athlete to play on its girls volleyball team. Monarch High School will face a $16,500 fine and probation from a state athletic association because a transgender female played on the varsity volleyball team. The Florida High School Athletic Association also has banned the transgender student at the center of the controversy from playing on any member team in the state through Nov. 20, 2024, according to a letter sent to the high school’s interim principal, Moira Sweeting-Miller. The school’s regular principal, James Cecil, has been temporarily reassigned while Broward schools conducts its own investigation of the volleyball controversy. The student’s mother, Jessica Norton, an information management specialist at the school, and three other school officials have also been reassigned or suspended during the investigation. Officials announced the probe into Monarch High School in late November.  South Florida Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. CBS Miami. NBC 6. Politico.

Brevard: School board members will discuss a proposed pilot program that could lead to year-round classes for some schools in the county. Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that creates a four-year pilot program to test a year-round school system in five districts. The goal of the program: To see whether reducing the amount of days students are off in the summer would decrease learning losses. If based on other year-round school models, the programs would have shorter break periods. WKMG.

Sarasota: School board member Bridget Ziegler was asked to resign on Tuesday, but did not. The Sarasota County School Board cannot directly remove Ziegler from the panel, but voted 4-1 Tuesday for a resolution requesting that she step down. Ziegler is co-founder of the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty. School Board chairperson Karen Rose, who had been an ally of Ziegler, brought the non-binding resolution to the table for consideration. “It is not about the left. It is not about the right,” Rose said. “It’s about students.” Tampa Bay Times. NBC News. Associated Press. Axios. Politico.

Lake: A new dog at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is using her nose to keep vapes out of the hands of students to help the epidemic.  The Villages Daily Sun.

Recess update: Florida elementary school students may not lose their daily recess break. State Sen. Corey Simon removed the idea from his 52-page bill, SB 7004, on Tuesday. The bill was aimed at deleting several regulations that he said make public schools less competitive with private education options. Sen. Victor Torres said he was happy with the bill and the removal of the recess language. He said students have asked him why the Senate would consider restricting recess. “The kids are listening,” Torres said. “We as senators have got to listen to the students.” The Senate’s fiscal policy committee agreed by an 18-0 vote to end policies ushered in by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Those include requirements that high school students pass two exams to graduate and that third graders pass a reading test to move on to fourth grade. Tampa Bay Times.  Orlando Sentinel.

Chronic absenteeism: Students missing too many days of school is a problem for parents and faculty across the state of Florida. More than 450,000 students missed at least 18 days or more during the 2020-21 school year, according to the state Department of Education. “We spend a lot of time on attendance because we know if they’re not here they’re not learning,” said Sharon Patrick, Santa Rosa County School District director of continuous improvement. Some methods to curb the issue include interventions like phone calls, meetings or counseling.  WEAR.

Colleges and universities: New College has a preliminary agreement for a major land purchase from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Monday, and the college is preparing for its pitch to state legislators for millions of dollars in investment for improvements on campus. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The University of Florida last week announced plans to develop about 13 acres in Gainesville’s Innovation District just east of campus aimed at creating a world-class destination for Fortune 500 research companies and a talent pipeline for University of Florida students who are seeking high-paying jobs. In collaboration with Concept Companies and Trimark Properties, the project — slated to start in 2024 — includes a total buildout of 1.2 million square feet of space.  The Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: Americans started a baby bust in 2008. In addition, the public school system seems determined to do their best imitation of Side-Show Bob marching over rakes since 2020, prompting a great many American families to make other schooling plans. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.   Bridget Ziegler helped turn Florida against LBGTQ kids and transform schools into battlegrounds for culture wars.  Miami Herald Editorial Board.

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BY Camille Knox