School wants fine reduced for allowing transgender student to play girls volleyball, and more

Around the state: A Broward high school is asking the state to reduce the $16,500 fine it was levied for allowing a transgender student to play on the girls volleyball team, a proposed bill would create a bill of rights for single-sex organizations on Florida college campuses, another bill would require teaching students “which political parties supported slavery by adopting pro-slavery tenets as part of their platform,” a Palm Beach County judge declines to rule on a motion to dismiss charges against a high school principal for not promptly reporting a student’s sexual abuse allegation, Florida Virtual School loses a long-running trademark lawsuit against a competitor, and a Moms for Liberty founder is challenging a national teachers union president to a debate about the education system. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Monarch High School isn’t disputing that it broke state law by allowing a transgender student to play on the girls volleyball team last season, but it is appealing to the state to reduce the $16,500 fine it imposed, according to school officials. Other sanctions imposed by the Florida High School Athletic Association included banning the student from playing high school sports for a year, placing the school on probation for a year and requiring school officials to undergo a series of compliance training sessions. Five school employees were also suspended or transferred by Superintendent Peter Licata for allowing the student to play. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG.

Palm Beach: A judge declined Wednesday to rule on a motion to dismiss charges against Darren Edgecomb, a former principal of Palm Beach Central High School, for failure to promptly report alleged sexual abuse of a student. Judge Scott Suskauer said he wanted to talk to “seasoned prosecutors” before deciding if the case should go to trial. Sun-Sentinel. District officials said they are not considering a four-day school week, as neighboring Broward school system is. School board members did approve the calendar for the 2024-2025 academic year, with school starting Aug. 12 and ending May 30. Palm Beach Post. Prosecutors have announced they will not file felony charges against a district teacher who was arrested three times in two weeks in November. In at least one of the cases, they said, the victim is not cooperating. Hawazin Wright, 43, who most recently taught English at Boynton Beach Community High School, still faces misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon and resisting an officer without violence. Wright is on administrative leave from the district. WPTV.

Southwest Florida: Collier County students returned from winter break Tuesday, while those in Charlotte County return Monday and Lee schools resume Tuesday. All three districts close Monday, Jan. 15, for Dr. Martin Luther King Day, and Monday, Feb. 19 for Presidents Day. Spring break is March 18-22 for Lee and Charlotte students, and March 11-16 for Collier students. Charlotte’s last day of school is May 24, while Collier’s school year ends May 30 and Lee’s on May 31. Fort Myers News-Press.

Leon: A new private K-8 school, B&B Scholar Academy, is opening in the fall in Tallahassee. Founder Charlene Thornton, who has been running a day-care center for the past 20 years, says she plans to go beyond the traditional school curriculum to provide a tailored education for the estimated 150 students as well as boosting collaboration and community outreach. “A lot of the schools here, they’re geared towards the education and not many are geared toward the family feeling,” she said. WTXL.

Alachua: Some parents and teachers still have concerns about the details of the district’s proposal to redraw elementary school boundaries. For Melissa Meadows, the worry is that her special-needs son, currently in the 3rd grade at Littlewood Elementary, may have to start over with a new team. “We have worked so hard with our current school to establish what Ansel needs in the classroom to be successful,” Meadows said. “They know what’s going to work for him. A new school will not be able to do that as well.” Andrea Mesa, a teacher at Hidden Oak Elementary School, has similar concerns about breaking existing teacher-student connections. School board members are expected to vote on the proposal Jan. 11. If approved, the changes would begin in the fall. WUFT.

Bay: Winter break for students ends Tuesday, when schools reopen for the second semester. They’ll only have four days of school before being off Monday, Jan. 15, for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The next holiday is Monday, Feb. 19, for Presidents Day, and spring break is March 18-25. Panama City News Herald.

Indian River: Tiffany Justice, a former school board member and a founder of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, is challenging the leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union to a debate about the education system. Justice wants to debate American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten on Jan. 18 in New York City. Weingarten has yet to respond. Florida Today.

In the Legislature: A Florida House Republican has filed a bill that would create a bill of rights for members of single-sex student organizations at colleges and universities. HB 1027, filed by state Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman, R-Tampa, would prevent schools from taking “adverse actions” against those organizations and students because they are single-sex, including expulsions, suspensions or denial of on-campus housing. The 60-day legislative session begins Tuesday. News Service of Florida. Republican legislators have filed companion bills (SB 1192 and HB 1139) requiring schools to teach “which political parties supported slavery by adopting pro-slavery tenets as part of their platform, etc.” State Sen. Blaise Ingolgia, R-Spring Hill, said, “it is vitally important, and historically accurate, to include that the Democrat Party not only fought for the continued abomination that was slavery, but they also adopted pro-slavery resolutions and tenets into their official party platform.” The bills are called the Kamala Harris Truth in Slavery Teaching Act. Florida Politics. Florida’s Voice.

FLVS loses in court: A Florida federal court has ruled that K12 Inc.’s “Florida Online School” did not infringe on the trademarks of the Florida Virtual School, an online school created by the Florida Legislature. “Plaintiff’s trademarks are inherently weak and plaintiff produced no credible evidence of actual confusion. Plaintiff also inexplicably failed to perform a likelihood of confusion survey,” the court wrote in its ruling. The case began 12 years ago. News Service of Florida. U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida.

Opinions on schools: Florida has pushed to increase the number of bachelors’ degrees earned in STEM fields by the students in its public universities. The results of that effort have not been impressive. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida’s school choice story is a beacon of optimism for America. What started with one governor refusing to take no for an answer has transformed into a nationwide movement, one that continues to evolve and push educators and parents to build new and better models that help children. Andrew Campanella, Orlando Sentinel. With its conservative transformation, New College of Florida is now guilty of the kind of politicization Gov. Ron DeSantis accused liberals of practicing – a forced externally imposed ideology. Herb Guggenheim, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff