Florida schools roundup: Lawsuit over guardians, bill on lead in schools and more

Suit targets guardian program: Arming school safety assistants will make Duval County elementary schools more dangerous, according to a lawsuit filed this week that aims to stop the program. Three parents and four students, backed by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center and two law firms, claim the assistants are inadequately trained and arming them puts students at risk. Duval and several other counties hired safety guardians to comply with state law because they say they couldn’t afford sworn law enforcement officers for every school. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAXGradebook. Florida Phoenix. WJCT. Associated PressPolitico FloridaEducation WeekSouthern Poverty Law Center.

Bill aims at lead in schools: A bill is filed in the Florida Senate that would require Florida schools built before 1986 to install water filters to reduce lead in drinking water. S.B. 66 was filed by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation. Several Florida districts have installed filters after reports of lead contamination in drinking water in schools, but most districts do not even test for lead. WFTS.

Certification questions: How did a substitute teacher who was fired for misconduct subsequently get a teaching certificate from the Florida Department of Education? Lack of communication, confusion and possible holes in state law helped Scott Beierle get the five-year certificate, according to an investigation, and keep it right up to Nov. 2, when he shot and killed two women in a Tallahassee yoga studio and then himself. Florida Phoenix.

School shooting aftermath: Even before the state panel releases its report in January on the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Feb. 14 massacre has prompted changes in laws that previous mass shootings did not. Associated Press.

Chronic absenteeism: The Palm Beach County School District is one of eight across the country that’s asking Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research for help in dealing with chronic absenteeism. Harvard researchers will provide several ideas for the district to test in smaller groups, then help it implement the agreed-upon process. The district has a chronic absenteeism rate of about 11 percent of its students, which is well below the nearly 18 percent in Florida and almost 16 percent nationally. Palm Beach Post.

Educators honored: Jennifer Albert, a 5th-grade science and math teacher at Emma Love Hardee Elementary School in Nassau County, is the sole Florida winner of a Milken Educator Award given to teachers who show or encourage excellence in schools. The award comes with a $25,000 prize. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Charlie Ward, a former Florida State University quarterback and NBA player who now coaches basketball at Florida State University Schools, also known as Florida High, is presented with a Torch Award by the Florida State University Faculty Senate for his contribution to the academics at the university. Florida State University.

Talking about education: School board members from around the state talk about issues they’re hoping the Legislature will address when it convenes in March. Gradebook. Philip Poekert, the director of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, visited K-12 schools in 20 Florida counties over a six-week period to discuss the educational challenges they face. Helios.

Construction program grows: The Polk County School District’s construction education program expanded to three more high schools this year. Lake Region, Tenoroc and Ridge Community high schools join Bartow and Fort Meade high schools in offering instruction in various construction trades. Lakeland Ledger.

Complaint over hairstyle policy: A parent files a state complaint against a private school in Apopka for barring his 6-year-old son from attending because he wears dreadlocks. Clinton Stanley Sr. alleges that A Book’s Christian Academy violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “Private schools participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program must comply with the oversight and accountability mechanisms of Florida law,” Angel Harris, an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer, wrote in the complaint. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship. Orlando Weekly. GradebookACLU. Huffington Post.

Students, school settle: Three former students of an Islamic private school in Cooper City who say one of their teachers sexually abused them a decade ago have settled their lawsuit against the school and mosque. The women say Nur-Ul-Islam Academy and the mosque were negligent while Tariq Ahmad, now 39, had sex with them. An arrest warrant is out for Ahmad, but his whereabouts are unknown. Miami Herald.

Student dies in crash: Grief counselors are at Belleview High School to console students over the death of a popular senior in a car crash. Police say the car driven by Eliber Paz, 17, hit a curb and smashed into an oak tree Wednesday night in Ocala. WKMG. Ocala Star-Banner.

Students sickened: Six students from Mulberry Middle School in Polk County were treated at a hospital after they ate gummy candy that a 12-year-old classmate had laced with THC, the primary psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana. All of the students are recovering, but the 12-year-old faces seven felony charges. Lakeland Ledger. WFTS. WTSP. About 100 of the 600 or so students at Crystal River Primary School were absent Wednesday with a stomach bug, say school officials. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student arrested: A St. Johns County student is arrested and accused of making threats in a rap song to kill a classmate. The 17-year-old Nease High School student posted the song on social media and a music website. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: Florida has done a better job than most states in closing the funding gap between traditional public schools and charter schools, but inequity remains. Scott Kent, redefinED. School officials are resorting to dubious stratagems to ensure high school graduation rates are going up even as student achievement rates are not. Natalie Wexler, Forbes. Thanks to the vision of the Citrus County Education Foundation and the generous support of its sponsors and our community, the free teacher store is a model for assisting the district’s teachers in assuring that their students have the basic needs to succeed in the classroom. Citrus County Chronicle.