National walkout: Students from around the United States walk out of their classrooms to honor those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland a month ago, and to protest against gun violence. Some also gathered at the White House, chanting for gun regulations, then marched to the Capitol for a meeting with sympathetic members of Congress. Associated Press. New York Times. Politico Florida. GateHouse. The 74. Education Week. Chalkbeat. Thousands of students around Florida, including those from Stoneman Douglas High, also walk out of their schools. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Times-Union. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Fort Myers News-Press. Pensacola News Journal. TCPalm. Gainesville Sun. Panama City News Herald. St. Augustine Record. Daily Commercial. Citrus County Chronicle. WUSF. WUFT. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP. WEAR.
Education budget protest: The state’s school superintendents are lobbying Gov. Rick Scott to call a legislative special session on funding for schools. They say the recently signed state budget won’t cover the rising costs of operating schools. The Legislature approved an $88.7 billion budget that includes a $101.50 increase in per-student funding, but the Florida Association of District School Superintendents points out in its letter to Scott that just 47 cents of that is free to cover such expenses as retirement contributions, employee health-care costs and utility bills. Most of the rest goes to school safety and improving mental health services. “We are grateful the state stepped up … to pass a school safety bill,” says Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie. “However, that I believe is being done at the expense of our core business.” News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Scott received the budget Wednesday, and now has 15 days to decide on line-by-line items and whether to sign it. News Service of Florida.
School safety: The U.S. House overwhelmingly passes a $75 million Secure Our Schools bill to improve school safety by making grants to school districts and states to train students, teachers and law enforcement officers on quickly recognizing and responding to warning signs, for technology, and to develop anonymous reporting programs. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Sun-Sentinel. Language in Florida’s new school safety bill that allows charges for any school threats, even ones that are not specific, can be traced to a 2014 Sarasota school threat that a judge ruled could not be prosecuted because it was a general statement not directed at any individual. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Brevard County School Board members say they are open to arming select school employees. Brevard is the only one of the state’s 12 largest districts that is open to the marshal program provision of the new school safety law. Florida Today. School resource officers are now in all 16 Indian River County elementary schools. TCPalm.
School shooting developments: A judge enters a not guilty plea for accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz at a hearing on Wednesday. Cruz, 19, did not speak. Miami Herald. The video showing the outside of Stoneman High School during and after the shooting will be released today, after the Broward County School Board and sheriff decided not to appeal a judge’s ruling ordering it to be made public. Sun-Sentinel. Radio tapes released Wednesday show that a Coral Springs police officer waited in the parking lot while students inside the school were being shot because of bad information given to him by Broward deputy Scot Peterson. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. More 911 calls made during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School are released. “There are people here, they’re all bleeding,” a freshman whispers through tears to a police dispatcher. “They’re going to die.” Miami Herald. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings to look into the failure of law enforcement agencies to follow up on warnings made about Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Ty Thompson, the principal at Stoneman Douglas, says the demolition of the building where 17 people died may be delayed for years because it’s a crime scene and may be needed for evidence in court. Sun-Sentinel.
New superintendent: Donald Fennoy begins his tenure as Palm Beach County school superintendent today. He will be paid a base salary of $290,000 a year on a five-year contract. School board members also approve Fennoy’s shakeup of the top administrative ranks. David Christiansen, a finalist for the superintendent’s job, is being removed as deputy superintendent and will be replaced by Keith Oswald, now the chief academic officer and also a finalist for the top job. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN.
School choice applications: Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning says if the new school attendance zones are approved, the district will not require rezoned students to resubmit school choice applications. Gradebook.
Sunshine Law questions: A Lake County prosecutor contacts the Lake County School Board attorney after questions are raised about the board meeting in sessions not open to the public. Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, is not calling the inquiry an investigation. Daily Commercial.
New school names: The St. Johns County School Board approves names for two new K-8 schools. A school in Nocatee will be called Palm Valley Academy, and a school in Aberdeen will be Freedom Crossing Academy. Both open in August with a capacity of 1,490 students. WJAX.
School namesake: When a new Manatee County middle school opens in 2019, it will bear the name of Dr. Mona Jain. She’s an educator and retired director of family health services for Manatee County Head Start, and she’s thrilled by the honor. “I am humbled and really touched,” Jain says. “Especially when the hometown recognizes you.” Jain moved to Manatee County from India in 1964. Bradenton Herald.
Notable deaths: Eric Peter Verbeeck, a 17-year-old at MCA Academy in Coconut Grove who was transitioning his identity to a girl named Hope, dies by suicide. His note to his family read: “Dear Mommy and Papa, I am so sorry to do this to you but I have killed myself by jumping off the top floor … I could no longer live my life as a lie.” Eric’s mother Patricia is sharing his story to serve as a message to people about sexual identity. “I would want them to know to open their hearts, minds and souls to accepting this unique situation that their son or daughter may be expressing and experiencing — because it would be the biggest gift they could give,” she says. Miami Herald.
Teacher suspended: A Starke Elementary School teacher is suspended while school officials investigate an accusation that she physically abused a 6-year-old student with a mental disability. Helen Haverty, 67, has not been arrested or charged. A report from the Florida Department of Children and Families alleges that Haverty grabbed a student’s ears, kicked him and hit him with a book bag. WUFT.
No charges for student: Monroe County prosecutors will not charge a Horace O’Bryant School student who put a photo of himself holding a gun on Snapchat. “There is no evidence to suggest or believe that the image was sent as threatening or meant as a threat to any individual or institution,” investigator Chris Weber wrote. Key West Citizen.
Opinions on schools: Parkland survivors marched Wednesday to show that America’s kids are fed up with the inability of their elders to do something about gun violence. And on they go to Washington, D.C., on March 24, to voter registration drives, and to collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment drive to ban assault weapons in Florida. And on they go to November’s elections, when we will count on them to help deliver the change we seek. Sun-Sentinel. I remember when the Columbine shooting happened. I remember how sad I thought it was, but it was so far away. It could never happen here, I thought. But it did, and it shows we’re all Anytown, USA. Jerry O’Donnell, Sun-Sentinel. As chief academic officer of the nation’s fourth-largest school system, I should be dismayed by the disruption some of these student protests have had on our schools and the continuity of instruction. Instead, I am inspired and motivated to support students in their civic engagement. Marie Izquierdo, Miami Herald. As the bodies of school children lost to senseless violence pile up, we are collectively going to have answer: What are our priorities, and what are we willing to sacrifice for them? Citrus County Chronicle.
Student enrichment: Band students and their parents at Pace High School in Santa Rosa County send gift cards to Texas band students and their chaperones who were stranded near the Florida-Alabama line when their bus crashed after a trip to Disney World. The driver was killed. Pensacola News Journal.