Florida schools roundup: More on school shooting, education budget and more

Deadly shooting: Broward County detectives say Nikolas Cruz has confessed to killing 17 people and wounding more than a dozen others in a shooting spree Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. He said he arrived at the school via Uber, fired more than 100 shots, dropped his gun and ammunition at the scene and escaped by blending in with a crowd of fleeing students. Then he got a drink at a Subway in Walmart and walked to McDonald’s before being arrested. No motive for the shootings has been disclosed. Meanwhile, the names of the victims are released and thousands mourn the victims in a candlelight vigil. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldPalm Beach Post. Associated Press.

Other developments: Florida legislative leaders acknowledge they’ve failed in providing mental health care in schools, and vow to commit more money to it. But a bill that would limit assault weapons hasn’t even been scheduled for a hearing. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaTCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Palm Beach PostPolitico Florida. Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the AR-15 rifle he used in the shootings. Miami Herald. How did Cruz get around school security? Sun-Sentinel. A YouTube user claims he alerted the FBI last fall about online threats by Cruz to become a “a professional school shooter.” CNN. President Trump’s proposed budget would cut millions of dollars to help schools prevent crime and recover from tragedies. Politico.

Districts react: School districts around the state beef up security and discuss ways to tighten it further. Naples Daily News. Tampa Bay TimesGradebook. Florida Today. TCPalm. Ocala Star-Banner. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daily Commercial. Charlotte Sun. WUSF. WEAR.

Other reactions: Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie says “there are no words that can describe the heartache, the loss, the suffering. It’s going to be a long time before we can recover from this as a community.” Education Week. Gov. Rick Scott calls for a “real conversation” with legislative leaders about school safety and keeping guns out of the hands of people who are mentally ill, and says he is open to additional restrictions on guns. Politico Florida. President Donald Trump vows to make improvements in mental health treatment and school security. CNBC. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is calling for congressional hearings on the shootings. Politico Florida. How to talk to your children about the tragedy. Miami Herald. Tribune News Service. Here’s how you can help the victims, and tell the difference between legitimate fund-raisers and frauds. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WLRN. Interest in home-schooling grows. Miami Herald. Who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas? Palm Beach Post.

House education bill: The House’s omnibus education bill, H.B. 7055, has been sent to the Senate for review. There it will be heard and possibly amended by the education and appropriations committees. Some senators have criticized the House for tying the bill to the budget. The Senate’s education bill is currently making its way through the chamber. Gradebook.

New committee member: Margaret Wood, D-Siesta Key, won a special election to represent House District 72 on Tuesday, and Thursday she was appointed to the House Education Committee. During the day’s debate, Wood questioned the need for a scholarship for 3rd-graders who fail the state reading test or for a school board term limit. Gradebook.

Rancorous meeting: A Marion County School Board workshop turns into a bickering battle zone, with board members upbraiding each other and Superintendent Heidi Maier about her recommendation to close the persistently low-performing Evergreen Elementary School. The board rejected Maier’s advice, and the district is now looking for a company to operate the school. Ocala Star-Banner.

Struggling school: Brooksville’s Moton Elementary School has drawn the attention of the state Department of Education after being ranked one of the state’s lowest-performing schools for consecutive years, and has gone through four principals in the past two and a half years. Now, interim principal Brent Gaustad is charged with keeping the school off the state’s turnaround list. He says discipline is improving, and school officials are using a specially crafted app to track student performance and behavior. Tampa Bay Times.

Sales tax vote: Manatee County residents vote March 20 on a school property tax hike that would bring in about $33 million a year for pay raises and a longer school day. Here are the arguments being made in support of the referendum, and against it. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School absenteeism: Lake County School Board member Marc Dodd says more than 7,000 students have missed eight or more days of school already this year, a number that “makes me want to squirm a little bit.” School officials acknowledge the percentage of students missing that much school is up this year over last, but that it’s still below the 20 percent benchmark used as a critical indicator of a problem. Daily Commercial.

Teacher under fire retires: A Pinellas County teacher who’s been accused of giving students inappropriate nicknames and having them do worksheets instead of teaching them retires the same day a district investigation on his behavior is released. Eugene “Skip” Walker, 62, taught traditional and honors biology at St. Petersburg High School for the past 13 years. Tampa Bay Times.

Teachers fired: The Citrus County School District fires two teachers who were the subject of investigations. Amanda Crawford, a kindergarten teacher at Citrus Springs Elementary School, asked a student’s parents for prescription pain medication at a school event. And Martin Waters, a longtime teacher at Citrus High School, left assessment tests and answer keys in insecure locations. Citrus County Chronicle.

Students attacked: A 17-year-old student at the Lone Star High School charter school in Jacksonville is shot several times two blocks from school. He’s in a hospital being treated for injuries that police say are not life-threatening. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. A 22-year-old man is arrested and accused of attacking a 15-year-old girl who was walking to Haines City High School. The girl managed to escape, and Tristan Calixe was arrested about five hours later and charged with attempted abduction. Lakeland Ledger.

Students arrested: An 11-year-old girl is arrested and accused of threatening to kill students at Nova Middle School in Davie. Sun-Sentinel. A Palm Beach Lakes High School student is arrested and accused of bringing two guns to school. Palm Beach Post. A Lake Nona High School student is arrested with a BB gun and knife on campus. Orlando Sentinel. A Forest Hills High School student will be charged as an adult for bringing a loaded gun to school earlier this month. Palm Beach Post. Collier County sheriff’s deputies say a Barron Collier High School student made a hit list with a suicide note earlier this month. Naples Daily News. A Martin County student is arrested after falsely claiming he had a gun in his backpack, then pointing his finger at fellow Anderson Middle School students and making shooting noises. He’s charged with disrupting a school function. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: Let us take the now familiar “thoughts and prayers” platitudes by politicians for what they are, and tell our leaders as forcefully as we can that we demand actions — meaningful actions — instead of empty words. Sun-Sentinel. Nikolas Cruz slipped through loopholes, bought his killing machine legally and exposed holes in what should be the state’s protective safety — and security — net. Miami Herald. The time is now for Florida to pass a ban on assault weapons. Palm Beach Post. If legislators won’t pass laws banning military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, voters need to elect people who will. Gainesville Sun. Standing up to the NRA and enacting reasonable gun controls requires political resolve from elected leaders. It also requires the resolve of voters to insist on better. Tampa Bay Times. Who’s crazier? The gunman, or those who let him buy an AR-15 rifle? Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald. Teachers were heroes in Wednesday’s shootings, while Florida politicians cower before the NRA. Kathleen Oropeza, Orlando Sentinel. My dad died in a mass shooting, and now my friend has been killed in Parkland. And the weapons that tore their bodies asunder – and our children! – go unchecked. Joe LaGuardia, TCPalm. This fear of being hunted in school cripples us. This fear drains us. This fear almost makes it hard to be furious with an uncaring and unfeeling government that values guns over the lives of its children, so we find ourselves crying when we want to scream, breaking down when we want to stand up. Emily Pacenti, Palm Beach Post. For parents of students, this shooting is only the latest to erode their sense of security. Eve Samples, TCPalm. State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, must lie awake at nights figuring out how he can keep the Lee County School Board from allowing voters to decide on a half-cent sales tax to help build new schools. Tom Hayden, Fort Myers News-Press.