DeSantis will sign social media bill, failure to report charges dropped, Moms in training group, and more

Social media bill: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he will sign the bill restricting students under 16 from opening social media accounts. Students 13 and under won’t be permitted to have those accounts, though children 14 and 15 could with parental permission. “We really want our kids to not just be wedded to a handful of social media apps,” DeSantis said at an appearance in Polk County. “I don’t think, ultimately, that’s something that is going to be healthy for our society as our kids grow up.” Free speech groups and technology companies say they’ll challenge the law in court on First Amendment grounds. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Charges have been dropped against four Palm Beach Central High School employees who had been accused of failing to report an alleged sexual abuse of a student, half of the state-appointed group developing training for school librarians on how to select and when to remove books are members of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, a Broward school board member is asking for a state inspector general to investigate whether some of his colleagues were pressured by the teachers union in an election year to approve teacher pay raises the district couldn’t afford, Alachua’s school superintendent files an application with the state to create an alternative disciplinary school for students without first getting the approval of the school board, and potential University of Florida students now have two extra weeks to finalize their enrollment decisions. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board member Torey Alston is asking a state inspector general to investigate whether several of his colleagues who are up for re-election this year were pressured by the teachers union to approve pay raises that he said the district can’t afford. Alston, who was appointed to the board by Gov. DeSantis in 2022, didn’t name those board members, but Debbi Hixon, Sarah Leonardi and Jeff Holness are all up for re-election and have been endorsed by the teachers union. All three denied the allegation, and three other board members who aren’t up for re-election this year also also voted for the raises. Sun-Sentinel. Schools that could be closed because of underenrollment could be repurposed into medical centers, child-care locations and arts centers, says some cities and community groups that were asked for suggestions. A school board workshop meeting will be held Wednesday to discuss Superintendent Peter Licata’s recommendation to close at least five schools to save money. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Candidates for the District 7 school board seat are split on whether the district should ask voters to approve a special property tax in November to support teacher pay raises. At a candidate forum Friday, incumbent Lynn Gray and challenger Johnny Bush argued for the tax, while candidates Karen Bendorf and Jen Flebotte both spoke against it, saying the district needs to cut waste before asking voters for more money. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: District officials say they will donate 10 acres of the former Hungerford School property to the town of Eatonville for a black history museum if a lawsuit over ownership is dropped or a judge rules in their favor. The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community brought the suit over ownership of the first black school in central Florida. WMFE.

Palm Beach: Charges have been dropped against four Palm Beach Central High School employees who were accused last July of failing to report the alleged sexual assault of a student. Prosecutors said principal Darren Edgecomb, assistant principal Nereyda De Garcia, behavioral therapist Priscilla Carter and chorus teacher Scott Houchins won’t be charged because the alleged victim can’t recall important details. Charges against a fifth official, assistant principal Daniel Snider, were dismissed by a judge in December. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. While several bills that were approved by the Legislature will have an impact on district students if signed by Gov. DeSantis, the district’s lobbyist said it will be less than last year’s session. “It was a very good year for public education,” Megan Fay told the school board last week. “Most (bills) are very straightforward.” Palm Beach Post.

Polk: More than 7 miles of sidewalks will be built near Laurel Elementary School and Palmetto Elementary School in the Poinciana area with $865,000 in federal funds allocated in a spending bill signed March 9 by President Joe Biden, said U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee. The money had been requested by the school district to improve safety for students. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: A petition drive by parents to move a bus stop in the Gateway area from outside their Marina Bay subdivision to inside it to improve safety has been denied by Superintendent Christopher Bernier. The district investigated the stop after receiving the petition signed by about 500 residents, but Bernier wrote a letter to the petitioners that said “there will be no further action regarding the bus stop.” The parents said they continue to advocate for the change at the March 26 school board meeting. WFTX.

Brevard: A lawsuit has been filed accusing the school board of not protecting a student at Edgewood High School from being sexually harassed and bullied by a classmate last October. “This included sexual assault and inappropriate sexual comments and overtures,” according to the lawsuit filed by the student’s father. “Defendant has been aware of this other student’s propensity for such conduct but has failed to take corrective action to protect (the victim) and other female students.” WKMG.

Osceola: County commissioners vote today on committing $8.3 million to the Osceola Prosper program, which gives county high school graduates free tuition to Valencia College or Osceola Technical College. The program began in 2022. WFTV.

Manatee: The owner of a nonprofit Christian private school in Bradenton who is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives appears to be in violation of federal tax law by running his campaign from the school. Eddie Speir’s campaign is headquartered at the same address as the Inspiration Academy in Bradenton. Federal law says a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” according to the IRS. Speir said he’s doing nothing wrong and that he and his school are the victims of a “woke” and “weaponized” IRS. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Alachua: Superintendent Shane Andrew has filed an application with the state to create an alternative disciplinary school for students without first getting the approval of the school board, as outlined by Florida law. In the application, Andrew said Scholars and Success would be located in the same building as the Alachua eSchool. Board chair Diyonne McGraw has the idea, but colleague Tina Certain has said the district doesn’t have the money for a new alternative school. Gainesville Sun. A Buchholz High senior’s research on plastic polymers has won fourth place in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search. Nathan Wei said he’ll use the $100,000 prize to help pay for college. Main Street Daily News. WCJB.

Santa Rosa: School board members have approved a contract between the district and its teachers union that provides average raises of 3.87 percent and a starting salary of $39,130. Negotiations lasted seven months. Members of the union still have to sign off on the deal. Pensacola News Journal.

Glades: The Florida Education Practices Commission said it has found probable cause that Moore Haven Elementary School principal Christopher Doty sexually harassed school employees. The finding justifies sanctions, according to the commission. Highlands News-Sun.

Colleges and universities: Potential University of Florida students now have two extra weeks to finalize their enrollment decisions because of the delays in the rollout of the application for federal student aid. High school seniors now have until May 15 to commit to UF. The University of South Florida also changed the deadline to May 15, while Florida State University is sticking with the May 1 deadline. Gainesville Sun. Tampa Bay Times. The University of North Florida faculty is accusing the school of violating an agreement by using peer comparisons during post-tenure evaluations. UNF says its review process is within compliance of the deal with the union. Jacksonville Today. Some University of South Florida students are planning a hunger strike to protest the school’s investments in companies that support Israel. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa cardiologist and philanthropist Dr. Kiran C. Patel is spending $200 million to start an osteopathic medical school in Winter Garden. Orlando Sentinel. The University of West Florida College of Business will be renamed the Lewis Bear Jr. College of Business after the Bear Family Foundation’s $5 million donation. Pensacola News Journal. Applications to the University of Central Florida and Rollins College have soared in the past 10 years, while acceptance rates are declining sharply. WFTV.

Librarians training: Three of the six members of a state government-sponsored group developing training for school librarians on how to select books and when to remove them are members of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty. More than 20 people applied to join the group, and the Florida Department of Education chose Priscilla West of Leon County, Jennifer Pippin of Indian River County and Jamie Merchant, the Florida legislative chair for the national parents group plus media specialists from Marion, Manatee and Wakulla counties. USA Today Florida Network.

Around the nation: About 2,100 schools in 900 U.S. school districts have turned to the four-day school week in an attempt to recruit and retain teachers. That’s up from 1,600 schools and 650 districts in the 2019-2020 school year. “The four-day week is the second-best option (to recruit and retain), and the first-best option is to pay teachers and support staff well,” said Chris Fiedler, superintendent of the 23,000-student district in Brighton, Colo. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: The Parental Rights in Education settlement was timely, hard-earned and well-deserved. Let Gov. DeSantis declare victory if it makes him happy, but most people know who really won. Sun-Sentinel. As incendiary rhetoric, hate and religious discrimination spread amid the tragic Israel-Hamas conflict, it’s time for colleges to teach religious tolerance and acceptance. David A. Armstrong, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff