Florida and other states sue feds over Title IX, Broward may close 3 schools, protests arrests, and more

Title IX court challenge: Three lawsuits were filed Monday by state attorneys general to block the Biden administration’s addition of gender identity to the list of categories protected against sex-based discrimination in education. Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have filed a federal lawsuit in Alabama. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the rule “is really a radical departure from what Title IX was originally meant to do.” Another lawsuit also was filed Monday in Louisiana by attorneys general from Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho, and a third in Texas. News Service of Florida. Politico.

Around the state: Broward’s school superintendent is recommending that three schools be closed and several others reconfigured because of declining enrollment and budgetary problems, at least nine protesters were arrested at a pro-Palestinian rally at the University of Florida and three more during a demonstration at the University of South Florida, a Miami-Dade school resource officer is removed from her job after her 3-year-old son shot himself in the foot with a weapon she owned, a newborn girl was found dead in a garbage bin outside a dorm at the University of Tampa, and a junior at Clearwater High School starts an in-school thrift shop to provide needy students with clothes. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A school resource officer has been arrested after her 3-year-old son accidentally shot himself in the foot in their Homestead residence Sunday with a gun she owned, although it was not her service revolver. Stephanie Alondra Jerez, 25, faces a charge of child neglect with great bodily harm, and has been relieved of her duties pending the outcome of an investigation. Jerez told police she always stores her gun away from her child, but when officers arrived they found the weapon on the kitchen counter. The boy was airlifted to a hospital for treatment. Miami Herald. USA Today. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: Three schools would be closed and several others would be reconfigured under a proposal from Superintendent Howard Hepburn as a way of dealing with declining enrollment and budgetary pressures. Broward Estates Elementary in Lauderhill, Olsen Middle in Dania Beach and Oakridge Elementary in Hollywood would close under the proposed plan, which was released Monday at the first of seven scheduled town halls. Broward Estates and Olsen are severely underenrolled, and Oakridge is a D-rated school with outdated facilities, Hepburn said. Several other schools would take on extra grades, 13 schools would be rezoned, and three other schools were named as possibilities for “public-private partnerships.” Another option calls for 42 schools to be closed and all school boundaries to be redrawn, but Hepburn isn’t recommending it. School board members are expected to vote on the plan June 18, and if approved it will go into effect for the 2025-2026 school year. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.

Palm Beach: Graduation ceremonies at 32 public high schools are scheduled from May 9-23. Most will be held at the South Florida Fairgrounds near West Palm Beach. Tickets are required, and everyone attending will be checked with scanners. Each ceremony will be live-streamed. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: A school district maintenance worker was arrested last week and accused of soliciting a minor for sex. Kevin Bryan Pearce, 57, faces charges of solicitation of a child via computer to engage in sexual conduct, travel to meet after using a computer to seduce/solicit/lure a child, transmission of material harmful to minor/s, unlawful use of two-way communication device, and coercing commercial sexual activity of an adult for human trafficking. If he’s released from jail, he’ll be assigned to a role with no contact with students, said a district official. WJAX. WJXT.

Pinellas: A Clearwater High School junior has launched a thrift store in the school to help provide affordable clothing to students in need. Aydin Riggs, 16, started Clearwater Closet after talking to classmates, who said the prices in the campus store were out of reach for many students. “Sometimes it’s not a want, it’s a need. So what if we open it up at the school … make it cheap and affordable,” Riggs said. The school board had to approve the project, and Riggs got a boost when Achieva Credit Union, where he is interning, got involved and launched clothing drives. “Somebody is able to have a shirt on their back, and they can have it without stressing.” he said. “That’s my favorite part.” St. Pete Catalyst.

Osceola: District 2 school board member Julian Melendez, 45, went on trial Monday on a charge of misdemeanor battery for allegedly kissing an 18-year-old woman against her will at his house last year. Jury selection began Monday. WESH.

Leon: High school graduation ceremonies for 12 schools begin May 16 and continue through May 25. Five of the graduations will be at the Tucker Center. All ceremonies will be live-streamed on the Leon County Schools Facebook page and rebroadcast by Comcast. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: School board members agreed Monday to explore making unused buildings, such as Terwilliger Elementary School, into affordable housing. The board made that commitment during a meeting Monday with county commissioners. Mainstreet Daily News.

Flagler: An 18-year-old former special needs student who pleaded no contest to attacking a Matanzas High School teacher’s aide in February 2023 is working toward earning a general education development degree as he awaits his sentencing Wednesday. With the help of jail officials, Brendan Depa has been working since last year on his GED and has passed the language arts section of the exam. Depa could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. Last week, his attorneys filed a petition against the school district, contending that its failure to meet Depa’s special needs led to the attack. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Highlands: A teacher at Park Elementary School in Avon Park was arrested last week and accused of inappropriately touching students earlier this month. Deputies said Jeremy Miles Gray, 45, faces six charges related to lewd and lascivious behavior. District officials said Gray has been placed on administrative leave, and his contract is not being renewed. WTVT.

Colleges and universities: At least nine protesters at the University of Florida and three at the University of South Florida were arrested Monday during pro-Palestinian rallies. Campus police and state troopers made the arrests on such charges as failure to obey a lawful command and resisting without violence to trespass after warning. One person also was charged at UF for spitting on an officer. Tampa Bay Times. Fresh Take Florida. Mainstreet Daily News. WKMG. Fire burned through several student-occupied apartments on Campus Row on Carolina Street early Monday. No one was injured, but a dog died in the blaze. Tallahassee Democrat. Student commitments to attend Bethune-Cookman University next fall are up 74 percent this year, school officials say. Applications are also up 9 percent. Central Florida Public Media. A newborn girl was founded dead in a garbage bin outside a dorm on the University of Tampa’s campus Sunday night. The mother was has been located and hospitalized. She’s a teenaged student at the university, police said. Tampa Bay Times. USA Today. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: Seventy years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the segregation of schools by race in the Brown vs. Board of Education, the Linda Browns of today can still be denied access. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.

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BY NextSteps staff