Florida vows to fight new federal Title IX rule on gender identity, Miami-Dade rezoning proposed, and more

Title IX showdown: State officials said Wednesday they will fight the Biden administration’s new Title IX rule that expands civil rights protections to gender identity. School districts have been warned by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. not to change any current practices based on state law, which prohibits transgender students from using bathrooms that don’t align with their assigned gender at birth. “Florida will fight this,” said Diaz. “The Biden administration maims the statute beyond recognition in an attempt to gaslight the country into believing that biological sex no longer has any meaning.” He said that complying with the new federal rules would force the state to violate federal and state laws, including the First Amendment, the Parental Rights in Education Act and laws that protect students’ privacy in locker rooms and bathrooms. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the state: Miami-Dade district officials plan to rezone 11 schools and repurpose three others next fall, about 300 Volusia teachers are being reassigned in the fall and many will be teaching a new subject, Martin County teachers and the district reach a tentative contract agreement that rewards experience, a school for autistic students in St. Lucie County is given the go-ahead, historians question Gov. Ron DeSantis’ claim that the founding fathers intended for schools to be religious, two Hillsborough brothers create an app to warn students about inappropriate online content, and Florida Polytechnic University trustees meet today to consider a contract proposal for the school’s new president. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Boundary changes for 11 schools and the repurposing of three schools are being proposed by district officials for the 2024-2025 school year. Enrollment declines, class size mandates, construction of new residential developments and schools, and reducing or eliminating racial isolation were cited as factors in the decisions. Parkview Elementary will convert to a specialized exceptional student education, Myrtle Grove K–8 Center will become a K–5 elementary, and Shadowlawn Elementary will become an special education under the proposal. The school board will discuss the changes at its June meeting. Axios.

Hillsborough: Two Tampa brothers have created an app that warns children about inappropriate content they might run across online. Students who search for content about suicide, violence, or weapons, triggers a warning. “When kids would go to a site, what Safe Kids does is … instead of blocking the page, it’ll stop the page and kind of show them a prompt. It’ll tell them why this content is not good for them. And you’d be surprised, 70 percent of kids did not go to that content again after understanding why that content was not good for them,” said Aahil Valliani, who developed the app with a younger brother. The app is being tested in some schools and could be released this summer. WFTS.

Duval: A former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher pleaded guilty Wednesday to misconduct with a student. Jeffrey Clayton, 66, will be sentenced June 14. Prosecutors said that state sentencing guidelines suggest a term of about 34 months, though the maximum sentence is 40 years. Clayton was arrested in March 2023, and the charges triggered accusations from parents who said they had complained before about faculty misconduct but were brushed off. Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville Today. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. Florida Politics.

Lee: Evangelical Christian School of Fort Myers has bought the Hodges University campus for $28.6 million. The property will become the home of ECS’ high school. Its pre-K through 8th grades will remain at the current site, which is about 5 miles from the newly purchased property. Hodges, a private university that was founded in Naples in 1990 as International College, announced in August 2023 that it was closing because of declining enrollment and financial problems. WINK.

Volusia: Almost 300 district teachers will be reassigned next fall, teachers union president Elizabeth Albert said this week, and many will be teaching subjects they are unfamiliar with. Money from federal pandemic funding was used for many of those positions, and the cutoff of those funds is prompting the reassignments. WESH.

Manatee: A Bradenton elementary school is the beneficiary of a sheriff’s office raid on a gambling operation. Daughtrey Elementary, a Title I school in Bradenton, received 40 computers and monitors seized by deputies in July 2023. School officials said they will give the computers to low-income families who may not have access at home. “We turned something bad into something good,” said sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren. Bradenton Herald. WUSF.

St. Lucie: A school for autistic students has been given the green light by school board members. The Treasure Coast School for Autism is projected to open in 2025 or 2026 to K-2 students who are autistic or diagnosed as developmentally delayed. “We recognize it takes all of us in order to meet the need and the specialized programming that Treasure Coast School for Autism can bring (to) complement the services that we offer in our public school system,” said Heather Roland, the district’s executive director of special education  and student services. WPBF.

Leon: Godby High School, which was closed for several days two weeks ago by heavy flooding in 80 percent of the campus, will need new flooring, cabinets and some drywall replacements, Superintendent Rocky Hanna told the school board this week. Further assessments will be made this summer. All but $100,000 of the repairs will be covered by insurance. Tallahassee Democrat. A state audit of the school district’s financial records and procedures produced no findings. It was the district’s second straight clean audit. The state’s Auditor General Office conducts reviews every three years. WTXL.

Martin: The district and the union representing teachers have tentatively agreed on a contract that would reward experienced teachers with raises of $85 per year taught, up to $3,000. Bonuses of $790 would be paid to all teachers, and educators rated highly effective would also get $100 and effective teachers $75. Union members and the school board must approve the deal before it can take effect. WPTV.

Flagler: The Matanzas High School student accused of attacking and beating a teacher’s aide 14 months ago is suing the school district. Brendan Depa, now 18, contends the district failed to properly address his behavioral and mental disabilities, to properly train the staff, or to provide legally required educational supports before and after his arrest, and that those failures led to the violent incident. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Florida Polytechnic University trustees meet today to consider a three-year contract that would pay newly named president G. Devin Stephenson a base salary of $490,000 a year. He would also be eligible for performance bonuses of up to $147,000 in his first year and annual raises of no less than 3.5 percent. News Service of Florida. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has received $26 million in the state budget for a building to develop hypersonic technologies. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce has received $3 million in federal grants to provide advanced training for law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency first responders. TCPalm. Construction has begun on a 700-bed residence hall at Florida A&M University. The $97.5 million building is expected to open by the fall of 2025. Tallahassee Democrat. University of North Florida trustees will consider creating a new bachelor’s degree program in environmental science. News Service of Florida. Karen White, the first regional chancellor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, died earlier this month when she was hit by a car in St. Petersburg. She was 72. Tampa Bay Times.

Religion in education: When he signed a law last week allowing volunteer chaplains into public schools to counsel students, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it was another step toward creating the religion-based public schooling system the founding fathers wanted. “When education in the United States first started, every school was a religious school. … There’s been things that have been done over the years that veered away from that original intent, but the reality is I think what we are doing is really restoring the sense of purpose that our founding fathers wanted to see in education.” Historians call that an increasingly common misconception. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The amount of added sugar in school meals will be limited under new U.S. Agriculture Department regulations announced Wednesday that go into effect in the fall of 2025. Other provisions include expanding the Buy America requirement for school meal items and slightly increasing restrictions on added sodium. Politico. There’s no evidence tying the legalization of recreational marijuana to a higher rate of use by children, contends a study published in the JAMA Psychiatry medical journal. Politico. Strict school attendance zones are keeping students of color and low-income families out of the nation’s better K-12 schools, according to a study by the nonpartisan education watchdog group Available to All. That zoning has also contributed to the nation returning to 1968 segregation levels, the study says. Axios.

Opinions on schools: Pinellas schools’ proposed policy on students’ cell phone use in schools is thoughtful and something that other districts should consider for the upcoming school year. Tampa Bay Times. It’s time for New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran to show the humility necessary to assure our community he’s truly worth the expense. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida continues to provide a cautionary tale to the rest of the nation on how censorship can thrive under loose laws, irresponsible state leadership, and a misled public. Stephana Ferrell, Florida Politics.

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BY NextSteps staff