DeSantis tells districts to ignore federal rules on Title IX, threatens student protestors with expulsion, and more

Title IX dispute: Florida will not comply with a new federal Title IX rule that adds protections for transgender students to the federal civil rights law on sex-based discrimination, Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed Thursday. He also ordered schools around the state to disregard the newly released rule. “Florida rejects (President Biden’s) attempt to rewrite Title IX,” DeSantis said in a video posted on the social media platform X. “We will not comply, and we will fight back.” Officials in Oklahoma, Louisiana and South Carolina joined Florida in directing schools to ignore the new Title IX rules. The regulation is due to go into effect in August. Politico Florida. The Hill. WPEC. Florida Politics. Newsmax.

Florida protestors warned: Students who engage in unsanctioned protests at Florida universities could be expelled, Gov. DeSantis warned this week after pro-Palestinian  demonstrations riled campuses around the country. “When you are chasing Jewish students around, when you’re not letting a Jewish professor enter a building, when you are targeting people like that, that’s not free speech,” DeSantis said. “That’s harassment. That violates appropriate conduct and yet at Columbia, Yale, all these places, those guys, those folks rule the roost. You do that in Florida at our universities, we are showing you the door.” The Hill. A pro-Palestinian protest was held at Florida State University on Thursday. Late in the day, police placed barricades to separate 40 pro-Palestinian students and 20 pro-Israeli counter-protesters, and no violence was reported. “Gotta make sure it’s safe for everybody,” said an FSU police officer. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Duval teachers say they are preparing for “massive” cuts in staff as the district struggles with declining enrollment and financial issues, a Florida legislator says he plans to file a bill for the next legislative session that would allow college students to carry weapons on campuses, Florida Polytechnic University trustees approve a three-year contract for its newly named president, Republicans now control all but 12 of the state’s 67 district school boards and could add five more to that total this fall, and an advocate claims a misleading memo from a state official led to the removal of hundreds of books in the Collier school district and others. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: Doris Reddick, a long-time teacher and principal who became the first black woman to serve on the school board, has died of complications from pneumonia. She was 97. As a teacher and administrator, from 1948 until her retirement in 1980, she helped integrate the district. She was elected to the school board in 1992, and was named board chair in 1995 and 2001. Spectrum News 9. WTSP.

Duval: Teachers are bracing for “massive” cuts in the workforce as the school district deals with declining enrollment and financial issues. Union president Tammie Brooks-Evans said she is hearing that 11 percent of district positions and 6 percent of school posts could be cut. “It does look like it’s going to be pretty deep,” she said. School board member Darryl Willie said cuts are common every budget year, but that no decisions have yet been made. WTLV. District officials said they are preparing a “comprehensive” plan to deal with teacher misconduct. It’s expected to be announced this summer. WTLV.

Lee: A former volunteer softball coach at Oasis High School in Cape Coral has been arrested and accused of sending sexually explicit text messages and nude photos to a student. Police said Erick Rodriguez, 42, is charged with indecent, lewd or lascivious touching of minors, transmission of harmful materials to a minor, and soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Seminole: County officials decided this week to move forward with a project to build a 6,000-square-foot community center on the site of the historic Rosenwald School in Altamonte. The school was one of many built to educate black students during segregation in the 1930s. After integration, the school became an education facility for special needs children, then closed in 2011. The county bought the property from the school district in 2019 for $1.75 million. WKMG.

Collier: A confusing memo to superintendents from Florida Department of Education Chancellor Paul Burns in 2023 led the district to remove or restrict 300 books and contributed to the state being responsible for 40 percent of book removals in the United States, claims Stephana Ferrell of the Freedom to Read Project. Burns mixed up the criteria for objection and discussion with the criteria for removal from a collection, and school staffers wrongly thought that meant all library materials had to be free of any sexual content, she said. WGCU.

Alachua: Samantha Lopez, a paraprofessional who works with special needs students at Rawlings Elementary School, has been named the school district’s support employee of 2024. Mainstreet Daily News.

Colleges and universities: Florida Polytechnic University trustees approved a three-year contract for new President G. Devin Stephenson that includes a base salary of $490,000, raises of no less than 3.5 percent a year, and an opportunity to receive performance bonuses of up to 30 percent of his base salary every year. He begins July 7. News Service of Florida. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a complaint that accuses the Atlantic Coast Conference of withholding documents in its legal dispute with Florida State University. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Northwest Florida State College students will no longer have to take math courses that are considered unrelated to their intended career path, university officials said Thursday. Northwest Florida Daily News. John Allocco Jr., a realtor and county commissioner, has been appointed as a trustee at Pasco-Hernando State College. Hernando Sun. A 17-year-old is among the graduates of Southeastern University this spring. Joshua Ostergaard is one of the youngest students to receive a bachelor’s degree in the 89-year history of the Lakeland school. Lakeland Ledger.

Guns on campuses: A Florida legislator said he plans to file a bill for the next legislative that would allow Florida college students to carry weapons on campuses. Randy Fine, a Republican state representative from Palm Bay who is running for a state Senate seat, cites recent antisemitic incidents at colleges as the impetus for the bill. “It’s time for Jewish students to start carrying. Next session, I will introduce legislation to end universities as gun-free zones and provide funding for students who want to learn how to carry safely. It is time to #StandOurGround.” Florida Politics. WBBH. WESH.

School board elections: Republicans now control all but 12 of the state’s 67 district school boards, and could add five more this fall if the candidates they’ve recruited do well. The conservative domination has led to softer vaccine requirements, rewritten policies affecting LGBTQ+ students and teachers, new rules for removing books from school libraries, weakened teachers unions and more influence over what lessons can be taught in classrooms. WUFT.

Opinions on schools: The only way to blunt the onslaught on higher education from MAGA Republicans is for college presidents, board members and national associations to take on the attackers in the public square, calling out their cartoonish caricatures of college campuses and reminding the public that America’s extraordinary success as a nation was made possible by an educational system, public and private, second to none. William B. LeoGrande and Scott A. Bass, Inside Higher Ed.

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BY NextSteps staff