DeSantis: I won’t sign social media bill without parental rights, Jewish schools funding, and more

Social media ban: Both the Senate and the House approved a bill Thursday that scrapped plans on putting a flat ban on students under 16 from having social media accounts. Instead, it would allow those platforms to sign up minors only if they also require them to eliminate “engagement” tactics designed to keep youngsters scrolling. The changes were made to “focus on the addictive features that are keeping the kids on the platform” and ease censorship concerns, said bill sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. Hours after the vote, though, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he won’t sign any bill that doesn’t give parents some say over their children’s online activities. “I don’t think it’s there yet,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s harmful for them to be on some of those platforms that have certain functionality that is addictive, I agree with that. But I also believe that parents need to have a role in this.” Other critics have called the bill a violation of free speech rights and breaks from Republicans’ support for parental rights. The bill is now headed to DeSantis for consideration. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Phoenix. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics. WMFE. WUFT.

Funding for Jewish day schools: A bill that would make state funding for security at Jewish day schools a recurring budget expense was overwhelmingly approved Thursday by the House. If it’s approved in the Senate and signed by Gov. DeSantis, it would required the Department of Education to create a regular funding model to pay for cameras, fencing, shatterproof windows, perimeter lighting, guard personnel, security-related transportation and “non-hardening security measures” such as like detection and prevention services. Florida Politics. Florida’s Voice. Budget discussions between the Senate and House are expected to begin Monday. Both chambers are calling for spending of more than $115 billion, but have to reconcile the $350 million difference by March 5 if the legislative session is to end March 8 as scheduled. News Service of Florida.

Also in the Legislature: Six “patriotic” organizations would be allowed to meet with K-12 students and hand out materials under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the House. The groups are Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, Civil Air Patrol and Future Farmers of America. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Members of the House also approved a proposal to allow volunteer chaplains to provide support services for students. School districts would decide what qualifications are required and what services the chaplains could offer. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida’s Voice.

Around the state: Orange County teachers are being offered a 9 percent-plus pay raise but would also have to assume higher health-care costs, an Indian River school board member who resigned Thursday now wants to take it back after he discovered his move didn’t take him out of the district after all, Lee County still has at least 200 teaching positions to fill, a fire has closed a Collier County middle school at least until Monday, and New College of Florida trustees approve an $11.5 million purchase of land and a master’s degree program in marine mammal science. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Thursday morning, a 16-year-old boy arrived at a hospital with a gunshot wound that was described as non-life-threatening. Later in the morning, a 15-year-old student was arrested at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale and accused of having a gun on campus. Police said the two incidents are related, and are investigating. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. WESH.

Orange: Superintendent Maria Vazquez said Thursday that the district accepted a special magistrate’s recommendation to boost teacher pay by an average of about 9 percent. That would mean raises of about $7,950 for the most experienced teachers, and $3,075 for starting teachers. But, she said, the district would no longer completely cover increases in health-care costs. Under the offer, teachers would have to pay 40 percent of the increase, which Vazquez said would be a maximum of $646 a year per teacher. Union officials rejected the increase in insurance costs, and an impasse hearing is scheduled March 5. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. WKMG. WFTV.

Lee: District officials say they have about 200 teaching jobs to fill, but union officials say at least 25 more teachers have quit since October. Union president Kevin Daly says that means more work for the teachers still on the job. “There are kids that are still having to go into those classrooms every day, so that’s teachers or, you know, teachers are having to cover those classes,” he said. District officials had no comment. WINK.

Seminole: The family of a woman struck by lightning and killed by lightning at Keeth Elementary School in Winter Springs on Aug. 19, 2022 is suing the school board and county commissioners. Nicole Tedesco was standing under a tree at the school with her 10-year-old daughter and the family dog when lightning hit the tree. The daughter and dog were injured. The lawsuit claims the school district failed to recognize the weather threat, provide proper safety measures and warn others about the danger. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Manatee: A third employee at at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School in Bradenton has been arrested and accused of tying up a 7-year-old autistic student during recess Feb. 2. Teachers aide Hydalmy Ortiz, 41, is charged with false imprisonment of a child under age 13. Special education teacher Carina Chindamo, 31, and aide Taylor Internicola, 39, were arrested earlier this month. Bradenton Herald. WTVT. WFTS. WWSB.

Collier: An accidental fire on the roof of East Naples Middle School early Thursday morning sent students home at least until Monday. Principal Maryann Gallegos told parents Thursday that the fire was confined to one area of the campus and that she expected the campus to be ready for students to return Monday. Naples Daily News. WFTX. WBBH.

Alachua: Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said Thursday that the idea of converting the three public schools in the city to charter schools was brought up several months ago. “Quite frankly, I didn’t see a path forward for it to work. But after they did the research. … At some point I lost the ability to push back anymore. They have a great plan,” he said. Newberry taxes would remain with the city’s schools, teachers will be paid more, classes will be smaller, and students from the nearby city of Archer would also be able to attend, he added. Gainesville Sun.

Indian River: School board member Brian Barefoot resigned his District 5 seat Wednesday because, he said, he was moving out of the district he was elected to represent and said he was told his new home was in District 2. Thursday, after a reporter informed him the new home was still in District 5, Barefoot said he wanted to rescind his resignation. It’s unclear whether he’ll be able to do so. TCPalm.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida trustees approved the $11.5 million purchase of land fron the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority. The 31 acres is seen as an area where the school can expand. Trustees also approved a master’s degree program in marine mammal science. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Floridians’ student loan debt is more than $103 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s the third-most in the country, behind California’s $146.7 billion and Texas’ $112.7 billion. USA Today Florida Network.

Opinions on schools: Empowering HBCUs to open charter schools can lead to a surge in the number of black educators and school founders, fostering black wealth and supporting local black entrepreneurs. Much like the historical success of Rosenwald schools, this transformative approach to education has the power to reshape our future. Curtis Valentine, Real Clear Education. Artificial intelligence can become a staple of education with some planning, investment, utilization of experts and willingness to shrug off fear of change and, instead, embrace amazing innovative technology. Sheela VanHoose, Tampa Bay Times. I should not be the only person questioning the propriety of chaplains filling a secular role that trained counselors and licensed mental health professionals should fill, thus preventing clergy from imposing their religious beliefs on impressionable students. Jocelyn Williamson, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff