Polk schools sued over handling of book challenges, Hernando removes 4 books, USF hunger strike and more

Around the state: A conservative group is suing the Polk County School Board over its handling of school book challenges, Hernando’s school board votes to remove four more books, 18 University of South Florida students have begun a hunger strike after school trustees said they won’t pull their investments in companies supporting Israel, a Sarasota school board member and her husband are suing the police and state attorney to stop the release of records from an investigation into charges that he raped a woman they had both been sexually involved with, a Miami-Dade student was killed and a Broward student critically injured when they were struck by vehicles near their schools Monday, and six cities or counties have been selected as finalists to house Florida’s Black History Museum. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A student at North Gardens High School, a charter school in Miami Gardens, died Monday when he was struck by an SUV as he ran across a street near the school. The boy was among a group of students who had just gotten off a school bus. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPLG. WTVJ.

Broward, Palm Beach: A 16-year-old junior at Cooper City High School student who was riding a scooter to school Monday was critically injured after being struck by a car. The boy is in “extremely critical condition” in a Hollywood hospital, said a Broward fire-rescue official. The circumstances of the crash remain under investigation. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPLG. WTVJ. WFOR. South Florida local projects in the state budget include $9.8 million for the student library and media technology center at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, $3 million for the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, and $600,000 for the Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center that was created after the Broward school shooting in 2018. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Teacher unions in Pinellas and Polk say they have met the 30 percent threshold of dues-paying union members needed to hold an election in which they will need majority approval to get another chance at recertification. Hillsborough’s union has until the end of the month to reach the 30 percent support needed for the election, and Pasco’s deadline is in August. Tampa Bay Times. A second Hillsborough County School District Student Center of Postsecondary Exploration has opened at Brandon High School to help students plan for what they will do after graduation. Tampa Bay Times.

Polk: A conservative advocacy group is suing the school district, alleging that its handling of book challenges violates state law. Citizens Defending Freedom also said if the district doesn’t make significant changes in its review procedures, the group will ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove members of the school board. “This school board has chosen to allow books that are not borderline pornographic, they are full-blown pornography,” former state legislator Anthony Sabatini said at a press conference Monday. A district spokesman issued a statement saying, “Polk County Public Schools follows state law regarding school library book challenges.” Lakeland Ledger.

Volusia: Construction began Monday on the new Orange City Elementary School, which is expected to open in 2025 with as many as 750 students. It replaces the school that was originally built in 1878, and the front of the new main building will honor the original school’s Spanish Mission architecture. WFTV.

Manatee: School board members vote today on how they plan to use revenues generated by a 1-mill property tax referendum if voters approve it in November. The tax is projected to bring in more than $69 million a year. About half would be used to recruit and retain teachers and other staff. Other categories that could receive funding are charter schools, career and technical education, STEM education, visual and performing arts, safety and security, early childhood education and athletics. Your Observer. More than 100 threats have been made against district schools on social media in the past three years, said Julio Jordan, head of the school resource officer unit. The problem, Jordan says, is that students often “don’t realize how serious” those threats are taken. “A big percentage of these cases are just kids being kids, but our hands are tied,” Jordan said. Bradenton Herald.

St. Johns: Two schools that will open in the fall in St. Augustine now have names. Trout Creek Academy and Lakeside Academy will each have room for about 1,500 students to help the district accommodate projected enrollment growth. Katherine O’Connell will be the principal at Trout Creek Academy, and Jesse Gates will lead Lakeside. Jacksonville Today.

Sarasota: School board member Bridget Ziegler and her husband Christian Ziegler are suing the city of Sarasota and the state attorney to try to stop the release of records from an investigation into an allegation that he raped a woman they had both been sexually involved with. No charges were filed. The Zieglers specifically want to prevent the release of text messages between them and also want the court to order the destruction of those messages. Florida Politics.

Alachua: The head baseball coach at Santa Fe High School has been placed on administrative leave. It comes just days after a report of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigating accusations of crimes against children after a business removed its sponsorship logos from the school because of the allegations. School officials would not say if the decision to place Travis Yeckring on leave is connected to the investigation. WCJB.

Santa Rosa: A Gulf Breeze High School student was arrested Monday and accused of having a gun at school. No one was injured. The student is being charged with possession of a firearm on school property and possession of a firearm by a minor. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Hernando: School board members voted last week to remove four more books from schools despite the recommendation of a book evaluation committee that three of them remain available to students. The Haters by Jesse Andrews, was removed on a 5-0 vote. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin and Dime by E.R. Frank were removed on 3-2 board votes. Suncoast News.

Flagler: School Superintendent LaShakia Moore said she doesn’t think the community will accept the county withdrawing the $1.4 million it gives the district for school security and more. “I think the community has demonstrated over a number of years their commitment and the importance of our schools being safe and having trained law enforcement officers on our campuses,” she said. “And so I would be surprised or shocked for our community to go away from that desire to have that. So I took it as, we’re going to have a conversation.” Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Eighteen University of South Florida students have begun a hunger strike after school trustees said they won’t pull their investments in companies supporting Israel. State law prohibits universities from making “decisions about vendors or investments based on political viewpoints or opinions,” said trustee board chair Will Weatherford. Tampa Bay Times. USF trustees approved the creation of a a new degree program to train educational specialists in school psychology. News Service of Florida. Florida’s budget includes $10 million for “operational enhancements” at New College of Florida, but restrictions on how the money can be spent will be attached and the school will have to submit a business plan to the Board of Governors describing its long-term enrollment goals and how the money will be used to reach them. News Service of Florida. Charlie Greene, the head baseball coach at Miami-Dade State College South from 1968 to 1996 who led the team to a junior college national title in 1981, has died at the age of 94. Miami Herald.

Black history museum: Six cities or counties have been selected as finalists to house Florida’s Black History Museum. Areas still under consideration are Jackson County, Opa-locka, Sarasota, Seminole County, St. Johns County and Eatonville, which will get a 10-acre property for the museum donated by the Orange County School District if it’s chosen. “To narrow it down to maybe one, two or three, we’re considering something like the Smithsonian model where there is a hub,” said state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who is on the museum task force. “And then there are affiliates so we’re considering, possibly two affiliates, in addition to wherever the main museum will be located.” The task force meets again March 25. WMFE.

Around the nation: More colleges and universities are reversing previous decisions and requiring students to take the SAT or ACT test as part of their applications. The resulting patchwork of admissions policies adds another layer of complexity in making college decisions for students, their parents and high school counselors. Washington Post. School board members can block parents from their social media accounts under certain circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided last week in making a distinction between private and public online lives. K-12 Dive. The post-pandemic rate of reading growth for K-2 students slowed this fall, according to results from the curriculum provider Amplify. The 74.

Opinions on schools: The United States should increase the supply of schools and housing to help counteract the nation’s baby bust. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps. A winning campaign in a tax-for-teachers referendum for Hillsborough County schools will require the usual — money, organization, hustle. But it also requires new openness from the district and a willingness to engage, sharper messaging and a fresher grasp of how the public schools are seen in this fast-evolving educational marketplace. John Hill. Tampa Bay Times. Only 4.1 percent of Florida’s public high school students are taking a physics class. So what science courses are they taking, in addition to a state-mandated biology class? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff

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