History of communism lessons approved for all students, Duval permission slips, and more

K-12 communism history lessons: A bill requiring the history of communism to be taught to all K-12 public school students, beginning in the fall of 2026, was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. Lessons would have to be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate” and would have to cover concepts such as the “atrocities committed in foreign countries under the guidance” of communism, and the “economic, industrial, and political events that have preceded and anticipated communist revolutions.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said, “I’m here to tell you that if we fail to educate children on what this truly means, the pain, suffering and sorrow associated with it, we’re failing in our prime cause as parents, as leaders in our community.” News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WMFE.

Also in the Legislature: Senate Education Appropriations Committee members advanced a proposal Tuesday that would allow schools to authorize volunteer chaplains “to provide supports, services and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board.” News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. K-12 school athletic coaches would be required to be CPR certified under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate’s Fiscal Policy Committee. Schools would also have to keep at least one automated external defibrillator on campus and available at all sporting events. WFSU. A vote is scheduled today in the Senate on the bill banning social media accounts for students under 16. If the Senate approves it, the bill goes back to the House for reconsideration because of changes made. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Duval schools are now requiring parents to sign permission slips to allow their children to attend such school events as birthday parties and holiday celebrations, students returned Tuesday to the Broward elementary school where six cases of the measles have been confirmed, a 12-year-old Miami-Dade student hit by a vehicle in front of his school last week died Tuesday, Volusia school board members approve a proposal rezoning 1,700 students from 20 schools next fall, Marion County commissioners agree to place a half-cent sales tax for schools on the November ballot, and the collections of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel will be housed at St. Petersburg’s Holocaust Museum and in the library at the USF St. Petersburg campus. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 12-year-old student who was hit by a vehicle last Thursday in front of Biscayne Gardens Elementary School in Miami has died, police said Tuesday. Mathayus Ruedas was airlifted to a hospital where he underwent surgery for a brain hemorrhage and lung collapse. The driver of the car stopped at the scene and cooperated with authorities, who are still considering if charges should be filed. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Broward: Students returned to Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston on Tuesday, just days after six cases of the measles were confirmed. The school underwent a deep clean over the long weekend, new air filters were installed, and district officials are offering free vaccinations. About 200 students were reported absent Tuesday. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPLG.

Hillsborough: Erin Fiallo, the principal of Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa since July 2023, will take over as principal at Ippolito Elementary in Riverview on June 3. Kimbell is one of five schools closing at the end of the school year. The school board also learned Tuesday that the district is expected to lose another 7,000 students next year who accept state vouchers and move to private schools or home-school. Tampa Bay Times. A behavior support teacher at Eisenhower Exceptional Center in Gibsonton was arrested Monday and accused of punching an autistic student in the face. Deputies say Prechae Rodriguez, 39, struck the 9-year-old boy in the face on Feb. 8 after the child hit Rodriguez with his hand. Rodriguez has been fired by the school district. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Palm Beach: Walk-through metal detectors are now in half of the school district’s 24 traditional high schools. William T. Dwyer High, Boca Raton Community High, Glades Central Community High and Dr. Joaquin Garcia High deployed the detectors Tuesday. District Police Chief Sarah Mooney said the goal is to have metal detectors in all the district’s high schools by the end of the school year. WPTV.

Duval: District officials are now requiring parents to sign permission slips to allow their children to attend “all school-sponsored events including … birthday parties, holiday celebrations … and musical events.” The changes were prompted by the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, according to the district. WJAX. The chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission told school board members Tuesday that all districts should be prepared for another school shooting. “When we consider school safety, the day that you think you’re safe, is the day you’re vulnerable,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. WJXT.

Pasco: A $1.2 million settlement with a former student who suffered catastrophic injuries in a 2006 school bus crash is being considered by the school board. Marcus Button, now 33, suffered brain damage, partial blindness and several other life-altering ailments when he was hit by a bus on the way to Wesley Chapel High School. A jury found the school bus driver to be at fault. Since state law limits lawsuit judgments against government agencies to $200,000, local lawmakers have been trying since 2011 to get the Legislature to waive the cap in this case. This year the bill is moving and is expected to be approved. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: The 2024-2025 school year begins Aug. 12 and concludes May 24 under an academic calendar recently approved by the school board. Students are off all of Thanksgiving week, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6 for the winter break, and March 17-21 for spring break. Florida Today.

Volusia: Rezoning plans that will send 1,700 elementary and middle school students from 20 schools to new campuses in the fall were recently approved by the school board. District officials said the rezoning was necessary to ease overcrowding and cut travel times by putting more students into their neighborhood schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: Voters will be asked in November to approve an extension of an optional local property tax that is used for safety, teacher recruitment and retention, arts and charter schools. The tax generates about $100 million a year. “This money is foundational to the critical aspects of our school district and without that, we would be in some dire trouble,” said Superintendent Terry Connor. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Several school board members and Connor expressed doubts at a workshop meeting Tuesday about an application from a “classical” for-profit charter school. Sarasota Classical Preparatory Academy, which is affiliated with Charter Schools USA, would open to a projected 885 K-10 students in the fall of 2025, its officials said. School officials questioned the enrollment projections, the location of the school at the same address as the Classical Academy of Sarasota, and a lack of preparedness from school representatives. Board members vote on the application March 5. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: County commissioners agreed Tuesday to put a half-cent sales tax proposal for the school board on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the tax would continue for 10 years and help the district upgrade and renovate aging schools. WUFT. WKMG.

Escambia: A contract for Superintendent Keith Leonard was approved by the school board Tuesday. His base pay will be $172,250 a year, and he’ll receive $500 a month for transportation expenses and $200 a month for business expenses. The contract runs through June 30, 2027. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Teachers approved a proposed contract agreement with the district on Tuesday that gives them a raise of $575 and $100 more for each year of experience, even as union president Scott Mazur questioned state data placing the district’s teachers 7th in the state with an average teacher making $56,869.37 a year. The previous year, the state listed the average teacher pay at $48,658.14. Mazur said he has spoken to teachers who tell him, “I never saw that kind of money. Where’s that money?” WTXL.

Alachua: Almost $500,000 has been donated to the school district to help its students develop social and emotional skills. The grant comes from the Education Foundation of Alachua County, and the money will be used to build student resiliency, hire behavioral paraprofessionals, produce positive communication webinars, and conduct college tours. Gainesville Sun.

Martin: Five elementary schools and a high school have been added to the list of district schools that will take new students under the state’s open enrollment program. Previously, seven elementary and five middle schools were on the list. “It really just opens up the options for parents. You know, if they’re looking for something a little bit different for their child, maybe something that isn’t even offered in their home school district,” said district chief of staff Jennifer DeShazo. WPBF.

Flagler: Sheriff Rick Staly is criticizing the county commission for considering ending its payments for half the costs of the school resource officer program. “This is not the time to reduce SRO funding. It is the time to enhance current levels of school security with the guardian program and to fix the Department of Education’s safe schools funding formula,” he said. Flagler Live. School board member Sally Hunt’s absence from a workshop meeting Tuesday drew concern from her colleagues, who asked the board attorney what authority they have to deal with her frequent absences. Interim board attorney David Delaney said censure is really the board’s only option. Flagler Live.

Bradford: The school district has received a $4 million state grant to expand its nursing program at Santa Fe College. The funding will be used to build or repair community facilities for workforce development, educational opportunities and access to health-care in small and rural communities. WJAX.

Colleges and universities: The collections of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning Holocaust survivor, and writer who for years was a visiting professor at Eckerd College, will be permanently housed at the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg and in the library at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times. Florida A&M University’s School of Nursing has been taken off probation after 96.55 percent of its students passed the national certification test last spring on the first try. Tallahassee Democrat. Officials of the union representing Florida International University professors and faculty said it has eclipsed the state-required 60 percent membership to retain its certification. WLRN. More than half of homeless students at Florida Atlantic University are graduating with the help of the Educate Tomorrow at FAU program, which provides support for those students and others in foster care. WPTV.

Around the nation: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a case challenging an elite Virginia public school’s admission policies intended to diversify its student enrollment. The policy scrapped standardized test scores in 2020 and gave weight to students who are economically disadvantaged or still learning English without taking race into account. Enrollment of black and Hispanic students grew sharply after the change, but Asian-American representation declined, leading parents to challenge the policy on grounds of discrimination. A federal court struck down the policy, but the appeals court reversed the ruling and the Supreme Court upheld the reversal. Associated Press. Chalkbeat. Teacher absences are up sharply in many districts around the country, a problem that’s exacerbated by the shortage of substitutes. New York Times.

Opinions on schools: The COVID-19 response fiasco unfortunately was simply an extension of a pre-existing trend of declining public school enrollment. And it seems certain that dropouts outnumber students escaping public schools by moving to  home-schooling or private schools. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps. The only way to improve the poor showing of Florida students in math is to make a major investment in attracting individuals who are strong in math to the teaching profession and to give them the tools they need to help every student fulfill her or his potential. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. could put an end to the confusion over book restrictions by issuing guidance to school districts clarifying that “Don’t Say Gay” and the “Stop Woke Act” do not apply to library books. But they have refused to do so, except in the context of litigation. Judd Legum, Popular Information. Throughout my 16 years in higher education in Florida, exposure to various opinions from experts and guest speakers were considered valuable educational experiences for students. Now, apparently, the risks and possible punishments are just too great. Rebecca Newman, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff