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DeSantis questions legality of proposed social media ban, legislative budgets and more

Social media ban bump: Gov. Ron DeSantis has tapped the brakes on the Legislature’s drive to ban students under 16 from having social media accounts. In calling Friday for changes to the bill, DeSantis said, “I am sympathetic, as a parent, to what is going on with our youth. But I also understand that to just say that someone who is 15 just cannot have it no matter what, even if the parent consents, that may create some legal issues.” HB 1 is a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, and late last week Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, also threw her support behind it. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network.

Also in the Legislature: Senate and House budgets were released Friday, and both propose spending $1 billion more than the govenor requested. The Senate’s bill calls for $115.9 billion in spending, while the House proposes a nearly $115.55 billion budget. Both are under this year’s $119 billion budget, but higher than DeSantis’ $114.4 billion plan released in December. News Service of Florida. House committee approved a bill last week that would allow school districts and charter schools to have volunteer chaplains. Parents would need to give consent for their children to meet with chaplains. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Around the state: Broward school officials have not recovered $300,000-plus an auditor says they were overcharged by a company for caps and gowns and don’t expect to, metal detectors go into an Indian River County high school and are expected soon in four Palm Beach County high schools, a district judge has harsh words about state officials “running off at the mouth” in a lawsuit over a proposed order to disband pro-Palestinian groups at two universities, and daily mindfulness messages are broadcast to help students at the smallest public school in Hillsborough County deal with the everyday trauma in their lives. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 16-year-old North Miami Beach High School student was arrested Friday and accused of stabbing a classmate in the chest with a steak knife during a fight at the school Thursday. He’s charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery with great bodily harm, exhibiting a weapon on school property and interference/disruption of an educational institution. The victim is in stable condition at a hospital. WPLG.

Broward: School district officials say they have not recovered the $300,000-plus an auditor said they were overcharged by a caps and gown vendor, and don’t expect to. “Our understanding is that the business is no longer in operation. Therefore, the recuperation of funds may not be likely,” district administrator Joe Phillips wrote in a letter to the auditor earlier this month. Chuck Puleri & Associates still is registered with the Florida Division of Corporations, but last year Puleri closed his shop that sold class rings and graduation products. Sun-Sentinel. An 18-year-old student at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale was arrested Friday and accused of having a loaded gun on campus. He’s been charged with possession of a firearm on school grounds, disrupting a school function, grand theft of a firearm and carrying a concealed firearm. Sun-Sentinel. WTVJ. Miami Herald. WFOR.

Hillsborough: Mindfulness messages are broadcast daily to help students at the smallest public school in the county deal with the everyday trauma in their lives. Only 76 students attend Patricia J. Sullivan Partnership Elementary School in Tampa, and many of them live in the homeless shelter next door. “Students experience these traumas of which sometimes they don’t have control over,” said principal Dave McMeen. “So while we have them, what do we have control over? It’s those few moments to say, Ok, take that hurt, take that pain, let’s figure out how we can release it … We begin with mindfulness – we take a moment, we center ourselves – and then we get engaged.” He credits those moments as a factor in lifting the school’s grade from the state from an F in 2017 to an A in 2022. NPR.

Orange: Frank Kruppenbacher, the former attorney for the Florida Virtual School, violated a state ethics law and will be publicly censured, reprimanded and fined $5,000, according to an agreement he and the Florida Commission on Ethics signed Friday. Ethics officials said there was probable cause that Kruppenbacher committed six ethics violation, but in the agreement he admitted to just one, of having a virtual school employee do work for his private business. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Boynton Beach Community High School, Park Vista Community High, Forest Hill Community High and Palm Beach Central High are the next four schools that will get metal detectors, district officials said last week. They’ve already been installed at Seminole Ridge Community High, Palm Beach Lakes Community High, John I. Leonard High and Palm Beach Gardens Community High. WPTV. A veteran special education teacher was fired last week for leaving a special-needs student alone in the cafeteria at Pine Grove Elementary in Delray Beach while the rest of her students to their classroom. It was the third time two years that Alice Wampler left a student alone, according to district records. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: A 60-year-old man was struck and killed by a school bus Friday morning in the Mayport area, according to sheriff’s deputies. The man was crossing the road where there is no crosswalk, and was not seen, the driver said. The accident remains under investigation. WTLV.

Polk: School board member Lisa Miller says the district is spending $25,000 a year to review challenged books, even though they aren’t in many school libraries, aren’t required reading and in some cases have never been checked out. She said that’s money that could be better spent elsewhere. Heather Stambaugh-Mukherjee, who is on a book review committee at Lakeland Kathleen High, also pointed out that when books are challenged, the district has to buy extra copies so committee members can review them. Lakeland Now.

Lee: Thirty district teachers have been chosen as finalists for the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools’ annual Golden Apple recognition program. The finalists will be interviewed and observed, and six will receive Golden Apples this spring. Fort Myers News-Press.

Manatee: Cafeterias at three middle schools and two high schools now offer plant-based meal options such as vegan alternatives to hamburgers and chicken nuggets. “They’re good and taste exactly the same as regular nuggets,” said Delaney Arnold, an 8th-grader at Dr. Mona Jain Middle School. Your Observer.

Okaloosa, Santa Rosa: A new safety mapping system is being introduced by the Okaloosa and Santa Rosa school districts. The system provides aerial diagrams of school buildings for law enforcement agencies that could save response time in an emergency situation, district officials say. WEAR.

Indian River: Metal detectors are now in use at Vero Beach High School, four days after an 18-year-old students was arrested and accused of bringing a handgun to school. “Student safety is one of our top priorities,” said deputy superintendent Scott Bass. “We thought it was necessary to act as quickly as we could.” He said detectors will soon be in place at Sebastian River High and other schools. WPTV. TCPalm. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: Florida Atlantic University trustees chair Brian Levine said the Board of Governors’ decision to censure him was based on a faulty interpretation of FAU’s procedures. Palm Beach Post. Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson’s one-year contract extension was approved by the BOG. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Institute of Technology is starting a fund-raising campaign to upgrade the campus and add student housing. Florida Today. The for-profit Florida Career College is closing by Feb. 15 after the U.S. Department of Education announced it would end federal aid to it. The school had campuses in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Pembroke Pines, Margate, Lauderdale Lakes, Hialeah and Boynton Beach. Higher Ed Dive. University of Central Florida officials are asking a judge to strike an arbiter’s decision last year that the school didn’t have just cause to fire a professor for helping a student earn his Ph.D. degree in exchange for research funding. Orlando Sentinel.

Education in the courts: The district judge hearing a lawsuit filed by pro-Palestinian groups at two universities challenging the state’s order to disband scolded state officials at a hearing Friday. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said they were “running off at the mouth” and potentially contributing to violence against students supporting Palestinians. He also challenged the pro-Palestinian groups to demonstrate how the order, which was put on pause by the state shortly after it was announced, has negatively affected them. A decision is expected soon. News Service of Florida. Fresh Take Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida.

More on graduation rates: Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a record high of 88 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, the Florida Department of Education recently announced. Here are reports on graduation rates from school districts around the state. Hillsborough. Brevard. Highlands. Florida Department of Education.

Around the nation: Some U.S. school districts are using surveillance equipment with sensors to sniff out students who use e-cigarettes and then face criminal penalties. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis positions himself as a champion of parental rights. Will he sign a bill that takes away parents’ right to decide on the use of social media, an issue that often looms large in their kids’ lives? Robert E. Sanchez, Miami Herald. Hooray for the Recess Moms who have, at least temporarily, restored my faith in Moms groups. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The elimination of DEI may have dire unintended consequences for students with disabilities, and other students. Monica C. Verra-Tirado, Tampa Bay Times. Our school board races should be nonpartisan because the issues that school boards should be dealing with are nonpartisan. School board members should have the ability to be flexible in the way they govern over our schools, not beholden to party conformity or unduly influenced by things that don’t matter and people who aren’t stakeholders. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle.

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BY NextSteps staff

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