Florida schools roundup: School safety plans, investigations, a return and more

School safety proposals: Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders present their plans to bolster security in the state’s schools. Both plans would boost the age for buying guns to 21. Scott’s plan, which he estimates would cost $500 million, would also ban bump stocks, an accessory that converts semi-automatic rifles into automatic; allow authorities or relatives to take guns from mentally unstable people without first having them committed; require people who are committed under the Baker Act to surrender their guns for at least 60 days; provide more access to mental health counseling; put at least one armed guard at every public and charter school, including one for every 1,000 students; assign a Department of Children and Families case manager to law enforcement officials in all 67 counties; conduct active shooter drills in every school; and require state-approved school safety plans. The legislative plan also proposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, a program to train and arm teachers in the classroom, and a requirement that a person be Baker Acted before his or her weapons could be confiscated. Neither plan calls for a ban on assault weapons. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Politico FloridaOrlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionBroward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie pleads with legislators to not put guns into the hands of teachers. Miami Herald.

Queries into shootings: Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the response by Broward County authorities to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating claims from another law enforcement agency that three other deputies waited outside the school during the shooting. Sheriff Scott Israel insists just one deputy was at the school during the shootings. Sun-SentinelSun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Israel is rejecting a call to resign because of the problems in his department’s response to the shootings. Dozens of Republican state representatives are urging Gov. Scott to replace Israel. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWPECCNN. Time. Officers are trained to “move to the sound of gunfire quickly and stop it” in school shooting scenarios, say law enforcement experts. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers return: Teachers returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday for the first time since the shootings that left 17 dead on Feb. 14. They shared hugs and tears, got counseling and petted therapy dogs. “There were a lot of people wanting to console each other and check on each other,” said Joanne Wallace, a teacher of special-needs students. “We didn’t talk much about actual work.” The school also had an open house Sunday for students and parents. Teachers have planning days today and Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, students will have abbreviated, four-hour days. “Next week is a transition week,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie, adding it’s “a time for folks to come together, reconnect and go through the healing process as we open school and work to get back to some level of normalcy for our students, faculty and community.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Melissa Falkowski has taught at Stoneman Douglas 14 years. Can she go back? Tampa Bay Times.

Deputy, shooter profiles: Broward County school resource officer Scot Peterson was a respected officer who is now being branded as a coward by President Donald Trump after it was revealed that he took a position outside the school instead of entering and confronting the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Sun-Sentinel. Alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz was diagnosed with developmental issues at age 3. At age 5 he saw his father die from a heart attack, and by age 16 he was preoccupied with killing, death and wars. Then his mother died last November, and his always troubled life spiraled out of control. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Other developments: The Manatee County School District is among those in the United States banning student backpacks in middle and high schools as a safety precaution. Miami Herald. First responders describe the scene they were called to at Stoneman Douglas High. Sun-SentinelCNN. Here’s an updated timeline of how the shootings unfolded. Sun-Sentinel. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg calls for a boycott of spring break in Florida. Sun-Sentinel. Students have become more engaged with politics since the Parkland shooting, but so far that hasn’t translated into more of them registering to vote in the Tampa Bay area. Gradebook. The Broward County School District will be faced with legal issues such as student privacy, liability and dealing with a crime scene in the coming months, say its lawyers. Education Week.

Background checks, mental illness: Among the popular suggestions for dealing with gun violence is to restrict access to firearms for the mentally ill and to enter those people’s names into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a database known as NICS. The chief way to be entered into the NCIS is to be involuntarily committed. But alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz does not appear on the NCIS because he was never required to undergo inpatient treatment. And while 30 percent in the NCIS are mental patients, just 2 percent of them are on the list of people blocked from buying guns. Washington Post. Tampa Bay Times.

School security: School districts talk about ways to improve security at their schools, and how to pay for it. Bradenton HeraldTCPalm. WKMG. WINK. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Gainesville Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald.

School threats: Threats against Florida schools continue to pour in. Here are some of them. Associated Press. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach PostOrlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. Northwest Florida Daily News. WQAM. Gradebook. Miami Herald. Miami New Times. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. Panama City News Herald. WTSP.

School suspensions: In Leon County, black students are 4.4 times more likely to be suspended from schools than white students, according to Florida Department of Education data. Tallahassee Democrat. In rural north Florida counties, students are being suspended at higher rates than in other Florida school districts. Some officials point to low teacher pay and high turnover as contributing factors. Tallahassee Democrat.

School absenteeism: Excess student absentee rates equal or exceed 20 percent at 13 of the 39 schools in Lake County, according to school officials who are troubled by the number. Students who have missed eight or more days of school so far are considered to be excessively absent, and rates of 20 percent or more are considered a problem because they typically are an indicator of future student performance. Across the district, more than 7,300 students have missed at least eight days of school. That’s 18 percent of the student population, up from 15 percent last year. The U.S. rate is 14 percent. Daily Commercial.

Teachers honored: Five Collier County teachers win Golden Apple awards from the Champions For Learning, a nonprofit education foundation. They are Hope Cliff, 2nd grade, Sea Gate Elementary; Heather Thornton, science, Gulf Coast High; Staci Barretta, 3rd grade, Big Cypress Elementary; Mary Eckard, 1st grade, Highlands Elementary; and Dylan Opper, 5th grade, Pinecrest Elementary. Naples Daily News.

Magnet school lottery: The city of Lakeland and some parents are asking the Polk County School District to change the way it selects students for school magnet programs. The district now has a lottery system that also factors in diversity. The city wants the district to save a few kindergarten seats for neighborhood children. Lakeland Ledger.

Superintendent vs. board member: A review of 700 emails between Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier and school board member Nancy Stacy since January 2017 shows a steadily deteriorating relationship. Maier calls it bullying. Stacy blames Maier’s Asperger syndrome for the communications breakdown. Ocala Star-Banner.

Tax votes on schools: About 308,000 people in Sarasota County and 235,000 in Manatee are registered to vote in elections to raise property taxes by 1 mill for schools. Both elections are March 20. Sarasota’s referendum would raise about $55 million a year, while Manatee’s is expected to bring in about $33 million a year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Check-in system changed: The check-in system at a Cape Coral elementary school is changed after an 8-year-old student is abducted by her stepfather, who signed in as her real father. The girl was found safe in Alabama, and her mother and stepfather were arrested. Oasis Elementary will now require a check-in with the receptionist and identification, and parents are no longer allowed to have lunch with students. Fort Myers News-PressWBBH.

Investigation criticized: The school administrator who accused Sarasota County School Superintendent Todd Bowden and another official of discrimination is calling the investigation of her charge incomplete after it was labeled unfounded. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School settles suit: Bay Haven Charter Academy has settled a lawsuit with former administrator Michelle Gainer, who had claimed she was retaliated against after reporting sexual and religious harassment by former Bay Haven CEO Tim Kitts. The school had previously settled a similar suit brought by another administrator for $150,000. Panama City News Herald.

Teacher arrested: A Marion County teacher is arrested and charged with drug possession. Samantha Schrader, a 30-year-old 2nd grade teacher at Greenway Elementary School, is on paid leave while the investigation continues. Gatehouse Media.

Student arrested: A Miami high school student is arrested and accused of possessing child pornography and improper display of a firearm. The Dr. Michael Krop Senior High student was arrested after his father called authorities when he saw his son’s social media posts. Miami Herald.

 Opinions on schools: Before calling for anyone’s suspension or removal, let us first be sure we know exactly what happened on the day of the shooting — and in the days, months and years leading up to it. Sun-Sentinel. It’s probably too late to get a proposed amendment to ban assault weapons on this year’s ballot. But it’s not too late to start for 2020, when the presidential election will draw a larger turnout than usual. Sun-Sentinel. Arming teachers is an idea that will backfire. Miami Herald. Marches for gun safety must go on, all the way to November. Palm Beach Post. There are two weeks left in the legislative session, and the governor and legislative leaders have far-reaching proposals to make schools safer with plenty of positive provisions. This week, the Legislature should improve these packages and listen to Floridians demanding stronger gun controls. Tampa Bay Times. After the Parkland massacre, will things be any different than they were after Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech? Tampa Bay Times. Public-safety proposals made by legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott don’t contain the ban on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that many Floridians want, but they are sound and responsive. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. I hope the Parkland students who survived this Valentine’s Day all grow very old. Because the kids are all right. It’s the adults I’m not so sure about. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. The Marion County School District has a legal, civic and moral obligation to keep order and protect students. Selecting a protest day – and, just as important, discouraging freelance efforts on other days – is appropriate. Jim Ross, Ocala Star-Banner. Threatening school violence is not a joking matter, nor is this a time for crass, thoughtless attention-seeking. But in most cases, arrests of those students who do so seem like an overreaction. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Every Friday, the Thomas Promise Foundation provides food for weekends to more than 1,200 underprivileged Pasco students from 24 schools. Tampa Bay Times. An Escambia County student who was expelled for drug possession finds success at an alternative school. Pensacola News Journal. The Okaloosa County School District receives a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity to support the district’s secondary science and math curriculum. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Lake County School District is holding its second suicide prevention event at Tavares High School. Daily Commercial.