Florida campus protests escalate, state 50th in average teacher pay, student dies on bus, and more

Protests escalate: Dozens of people have been arrested on state college campuses during pro-Palestinian demonstrations this week. At the University of South Florida on Tuesday, campus police dispersed a group of 80 to 100 protesters with tear gas and arrested 10, and five students were also arrested for protesting at Florida State University. Protests were also reported at the University of Florida and the University of North Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supports the way state universities are dealing with protesters. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS. USA Today Florida Network. WCJB. WTLV. DeSantis also said Tuesday he still expects college students from northern schools to take advantage of Florida’s relaxed transfer rules for students who are being discriminated against. “Largely right now, that’s Jewish students in this country given what’s going on. … So I think you’re going to start to see a lot of people take us up on that offer.” Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: A new report shows that Florida ranks 50th among the states and the District of Columbia in average teacher pay, a 15-year-old student died Monday on an Orange County school bus after a “medical event,” the University of Central Florida has eliminated its vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and positions related to diversity training, and an Osceola school board member was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery after being accused of kissing an 18-year-old without her consent. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Black girls do not feel safe in schools, according to a report published by the National Women’s Law Center and Southern Poverty Law Center, based on surveys and focus groups with black girls and young women 14 to 24 talking about their experiences within the school district. The girls cited policing and district policies that they say are discriminatory. The Hill.

Orange: The family of a 15-year-old College Park Middle School student who died of a “medical event” on a school bus this week is demanding answers from the school district. Jasiel Sanders began having trouble breathing as he boarded the bus Monday, then lost consciousness, according to his sister. She also said the bus driver kept driving for another mile after being informed of her brother’s collapse before calling 911, and even drove past a medical facility. “The family is outraged that the bus driver didn’t pull into the facility to get immediate help for Jasiel,” said a family attorney. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Duval: Emails show that school district officials have repeatedly rejected a push by parents to cut off access to online services provided by the Jacksonville Public Library. They had argued that the library was providing access to inappropriate books and materials. Interim superintendent Dana Kriznar said students benefit from the partnership with the public library, which she said complies with state law and is “good educational practice.” Jacksonville Today. Former superintendent Diana Greene, who retired last summer, talks about the good times and the “dark times” during her tenure, the death threats she received and her current job as CEO of Children’s Literacy Initiative. WTLV. School district officials have released a document that addresses the reasons for considering school closures, mergers and rezonings, the considerations in making decisions, and construction projects still planned. They reiterated those positions at a town hall meeting Tuesday. Duval County School District. Jacksonville Today. WJAX. WTLV.

Osceola: District 2 school board member Julian Melendez, 45, was found not guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor battery. He was accused of kissing an 18-year-old woman against her will at his house last year. WESH.

Sarasota: The private K-12 school The Classical Academy has won its appeal of a ruling by Sarasota County’s zoning administrator that its modular buildings were a violation of the site plan, and will be allowed to permanently install them. The buildings had been challenged by a citizen’s group. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A student at Booker Middle School in Sarasota has been arrested and accused of having a gun on campus. No one was injured and the gun was recovered. WWSB.

Leon: The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra has started string bands at two Title I elementary schools and plans to expand the program for 3rd- to 5th-grade violinists. “We’re working with the (Leon School) District to make sure there are programs in the middle schools these 2 (elementary) schools feed into,” said orchestra manager Mandy Stringer. She said studies show that students who play instruments do better in academics. WUSF.

Alachua: High Springs police are placing speed detection cameras around the High Springs Community School. Drivers speeding through the school zones will be caught on cameras and mailed a ticket. WUFT. A man who made a social media threat to shoot up Kanapaha Middle School in Gainesville has been sentenced to three years in prison. Daniel Julio Dominguez, 32, will also be on probation for 10 years and is not allowed to possess any firearms or have contact with any county schools. Mainstreet Daily News.

Colleges and universities: The University of Central Florida has eliminated its vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, all vacant positions related to diversity training, and renamed its DEI program to the Department of Access and Community Engagement. Central Florida Public Media. Forbes magazine has named the University of Florida as one 10 public universities that could be considered “new Ivies.” UF President Ben Sasse said, “This new recognition underscores UF’s commitment to being both elite and practical.” Florida Politics.

Florida 50th in teacher pay: Florida’s average teacher pay of $53,098 ranks 50th among the states and the District of Columbia, according to a report from the National Education Association teachers union. Only West Virginia’s $52,870 is lower. The national average is $69,544. Florida does rank 16th in starting teacher pay at $47,178. WTXL. WOFL. Florida Politics.

Amendment loopholes: A constitutional amendment to limit school class sizes that was approved in voters in 2002 serves as a reminder about what could happen if the right to abortion and recreational marijuana amendments pass this November. Tampa Bay Times.

End is in sight: This is the last month of the school year for most Florida students. Students in 40 of the state’s 67 counties will say goodbye to the 2023-2024 school year before Memorial Day, May 27. In 25 counties, students will return to school after the holiday for anywhere from 1-4 days. In two counties, they will continue classes into June. Miami-Dade’s final day is June 5, and Broward’s is June 10. Most school districts will start the 2024-2025 academic year on Aug. 12. USA Today Florida Network.

Around the nation: The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s New York City trial said Tuesday that Trump could attend his son Barron’s high school graduation in Palm Beach County on May 17. Trump had criticized Judge Juan M. Merchan over the possibility he could not attend, but Merchan said the court would not be in session that day. New York Times. In a 19-9 vote, Vermont’s Senate has rejected Gov. Phil Scott’s appointment of former Broward County school administrator Zoie Saunders to the job of education secretary. Scott then appointed her as interim education secretary. Many of the 18 Democratic senators who opposed the nomination cited Saunders’ long association with Charter Schools USA, a for-profit charter school management company based in Florida. Vermont Public. WPTZ. Seven Days.

New CEO at SUFS: Gretchen Schoenhaar, who has worked in a variety of business positions and for the global investment bank Barclays for the past five years, has been named chief executive officer at Step Up For Students, the nonprofit education choice scholarship funding organization. Doug Tuthill, who had been president of the organization that hosts this blog since 2008, becomes Step Up’s chief vision officer. NextSteps. Florida Politics.

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