Social media ban revised and approved, DeSantis goes off about book challenges, and more

Social media ban: A Senate committee revised and approved a bill Thursday that would ban students under 16 from having social media accounts. The biggest change was to combine it with another House bill that would require adult websites to verify that its users are over 18 years old. But the revisions do not address concerns that many, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have about HB 1’s constitutionality and possible infringement on the rights of parents. The bill is now ready for a vote by the full Senate. It’s already been approved by the House, but it will have to go back for another review of the changes. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics.

DeSantis on book challenges: Gov. DeSantis said Thursday that it’s time to end the abuse of school book challenges, and threw his support behind a proposed bill that would impose $100 fees to people who make hundreds of challenges but don’t have children in schools. But he also criticized what he called “phony narratives” about books being banned from schools. He said teachers, activists and the media were to blame for confusion over how to interpret the law restricting books on such topics as sexuality, gender orientation and race. “Some people have abused this process in an effort to score cheap political points,” he said, specifically mentioning Miami-Dade schools for requiring permission to have a black author read to children. He ordered state education officials to “prohibit bad actors in school leadership positions from intentionally depriving students of an education by politicizing the book review process.” The bill was passed by the full House. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WMFE. WFTV. WESH. WPTV.

Around the state: A group’s lawsuit claiming New College of Florida violated student and faculty academic freedom has been paused, few U.S. students have applied to Florida colleges since Gov. DeSantis offered incentives to those who wanted to leave their current schools because they feel they’re facing religious persecution, Leon County school officials say an initiative to keep guns out of school seems to be working, a Jefferson County school official talks about how it improved its grade from the state just two years after regaining control from a charter school company, an Orlando high school is one of 31 in the country that will have the school version of Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when it opens this fall, and an OnlyFans decal on the back of a Lake County mom’s car led to nine children being expelled from a religious school. 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 is in critical condition after being struck by a vehicle Thursday morning near Biscayne Gardens Elementary School. The boy was crossing the street when he was hit, police said. The driver stayed at the scene, and the investigation is continuing. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ.

Orange: Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando is one of 31 U.S. schools that will have the school version of Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when it opens this fall. Schools applied for the rights last fall by submitting a video. Dr. Phillips’ included images of students wearing robes and waving wands in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of Universal Orlando, which is across the street from the school. Stage productions are expected to take place at the chosen schools between Oct. 15 and Nov. 10. Orlando Sentinel.

Pinellas, Pasco: There are fewer than four-dozen recovery high schools in the United States, where addicted students can get treatment and emotional support while they continue to make progress toward graduation, and two are in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco’s private Victory High School opened in April 2021 and has about a dozen students, and Pinellas’ Victory High opened last August and has closer to 20. The $18,000-a-year cost is covered with state scholarships, grants and donations. WUSF.

Lee: The family of a Fort Myers High School baseball player has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school district. Madrid Tucker, 16, and his parents claim he was unlawfully targeted and discriminated against and was bombarded with racial slurs, insults and threats by school officials. WINK.

Volusia: Schools will open Aug. 12 for students and the last day will be May 28, according to the 2024-2025 academic calendar approved by the school board this week. Students will be off Thanksgiving week, from Dec. 23 through Jan. 6, and March 17-21 for spring break. Nov. 25 and 26 are scheduled makeup days in case of bad weather. Florida Today.

Lake: A mom’s OnlyFans decal on the back of her car has led to the expulsions of nine students from the Liberty Christian Preparatory School in Tavares. Michelle Cline’s two children were expelled after she spoke to the media about the school telling her to drop her children off across the street from the school because of the decal. Six children of a mother who complained to the school about the decal also were expelled. So was a 7th-grader who said the school told him he was removed because he “looked up” Cline online. School officials had no comment. USA Today.

Clay: A 19-year-old Green Cove Springs man is in serious condition after being hit by a school bus Thursday morning. Troopers said the man ran out into the road lane the bus was in and was hit by the outside mirror on the passenger side. No students were aboard. WTLV.

Leon: A school district safety plan is beginning to yield results, district chief of safety and security Jimmy Williams told school board members this week. Under the Safe Schools Initiative, he said, just one gun has been taken off a campus this school year. “This time last year we had about seven, a total of 10 last year and about eight in the year previous to that,” he said. The initiative includes use of a firearms detection dog named Tango, gun detection devices and a collaborative campaign from the Tallahassee Urban League and police department reminding people not to keep guns in their cars. WTXL.

Charlotte: Superintendent Mark Vianello and other administrators will hold town meetings Tuesday and Feb. 26 to discuss the school district’s five-year strategic plan, which outlines specific goals and objectives for student academic outcomes. Charlotte Sun.

Putnam: Plans are moving forward on the construction of two new elementary schools and upgrades for Crescent City Junior-Senior High School with money being generated by an increase in property taxes. The $300 million bond will be repaid over 30 years, and construction will be divided into three phases. When completed, the county will have six new elementary schools and three new high schools. WUFT.

Columbia: Design work has begun on the new Niblack Elementary School in Lake City, thanks to voter approval of an extra half-cent sales tax in November 2022. The tax is expected to generate about $6 million a year for 20 years, with funds being used to replace four aging elementary schools with two new ones. WCJB.

Jefferson: How, in two years since local control was returned to the school district by a charter school company, did the district improve to a C grade from the state after a decade of receiving D and F grades? Principal Jackie Pons, formerly the superintendent in Leon County, had three immediate goals: Recruit certified, highly effective teachers, allow them to make curriculum decisions in the classroom, and increase enrollment by expanding sports programs and offering career and technical education classes. Tallahassee Democrat.

Colleges and universities: The group NCF Freedom has paused its lawsuit alleging that New College of Florida violated student and faculty academic freedom. Jono Miller, the president of NCF Freedom, said the organization can “reactivate” the lawsuit if it feels the college took more actions that violate the First Amendment. “We’re not really conceding anything,” he said. “We’re just acknowledging the fact that the court didn’t feel that their behavior was extreme enough.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics. Few U.S. students have applied to Florida schools since Gov. DeSantis offered to waive application fees and grant in-state tuition to certain transfer applicants who wanted to leave their current schools because they feel they’re facing religious persecution since Hamas attacked Israel Oct. 7. Gainesville Sun. WUFT. J. Nathaniel Southerland, the assistant vice president for workforce development at St. Johns River State College in Palatka, has been named provost and president for academic affairs at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He begins March 11. Gainesville Sun. Ward Scott, an English professor at Santa Fe College from 1969 to 2007, died Thursday. WCJB. Main Street Daily News. Santa Fe College.

Around the nation: Student loan forgiveness could be extended to Americans with financial hardships, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The proposal is now in the rule-making process at the U.S. Department of Education, which could take months. Associated Press. Politico.

Opinions on schools: It is no “hoax” that schools are doing exactly what critics warned they would do when books are challenged: overreact and self-censor to comply with vaguely worded state policies. That’s why the governor’s public-relations effort to paint the consequences of his own policies as a “hoax” feels disingenuous. Miami Herald. Once again, school-related employees are being left out of pay increases as the Florida Legislature and local school boards only focus on increasing teacher pay. Let me be clear, teachers deserve higher pay. What is not being discussed is how teachers cannot do their job without the help and support of school custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and office staff, security monitors, classroom aides, etc. Misty Cash, Tallahassee Democrat. Only around 326 students are enrolled in college programs in Florida prisons, according to data provided by colleges. That’s a tiny fraction of the more than 80,000 people incarcerated in the state. “It seems hypocritical to live in a place that is designed to change behavior, but not be able to get an education,” said Marina Bueno, an inmate in south Florida. Ryan Moser, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff