Florida schools roundup: Call for grand jury, security order, solemn day and more

Call for a grand jury: Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for a statewide grand jury to investigate the actions of districts on safety and security in schools, and has issued an executive order relating to security in schools and the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland a year ago. He’s ordered a state review of all school district discipline diversion programs, a reopening of the application period for districts to ask for funds from the armed guardian program, and is authorizing the Florida Department of Education to collect and maintain a database for timely school safety information. “We’re not where we need to be,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure we’re doing all we can so folks can have safe schools.” Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach PostGradebook. News Service of Florida. Associated PressFlorida TodayWPTV. WTLV. Orlando Weekly. Sunshine State News. Florida Phoenix. WLRN.

Parkland, one year later: Families of the 17 Parkland shooting victims will visit graves, work on community projects and mourn privately to observe the one-year anniversary of their deaths, while schools around the state pay their respects with moments of silence, memorial services and more. Associated PressFlorida Today. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Daily Commercial. WLRN. WTSP. One year later after the massacre, students and teachers reflect on what’s changed. Education Week. Victims’ demands for accountability for the shootings has yielded mixed results. United Press International. This teacher changed schools after Parkland. But she can’t escape the memories of that day. Palm Beach Post. It’s a new world for school policing, too. Florida Today. Six things we’ve learned about safety in schools since Parkland. The 74. The Broward district will be implementing the camera software system named Avigilon in high-risk school. It allows security officials to easily track a student around campus by his appearance. Washington Post. A top Florida teachers union official praises Stoneman Douglas students for their activism after the attack. The Hill.

Armed guardian funds: The 25 Florida sheriff’s offices that are participating in the guardian program that arms district employees to protect schools have received $9.3 million from the state. About $3 million has been used for salaries and benefits of trainers, and almost $2 million has been used to buy weapons, holsters and ammunition, according to state records. News Service of Florida.

Why they leave: Teachers from around the state talk about why they’re leaving the profession. It starts with low pay, but there’s other factors as well in what some teachers call the “invisible protest.” Fort Myers Florida Weekly.

Contract negotiations: The recent contract agreement between the Pinellas County School District and its teachers has caught the eyes of teachers in Pasco, one county to the north. In Pasco, the sides continue to squabble about how to allocate 2 percent raises. In Pinellas, starting teachers will be paid $43,809, a sum that would take 16 years to reach for a Pasco teacher with a bachelor’s degree. Some educators worry the gap will push teachers to the south and aggravate the Pasco teacher shortage. Gradebook.

Cutting costs: Indian River County Superintendent Mark Rendell has sliced $3.4 million from the district’s budget by delaying purchases of new school buses and cutting three teaching positions. He says there is more cutting to be done to reach the 5 percent reserves benchmark required by the school board. TCPalm.

Charter district success: Not everyone in Jefferson County was happy when the school board voted in 2017 to turn over the management of the district to Somerset Academy, a charter school company based in south Florida. But the district’s academic improvement in the past two years is drawing attention. redefinED.

Textbook purchases: Duval County school officials say they feel comfortable buying textbooks for elementary schools despite the uncertainty of proposed changes to the state’s teaching standards. But the panel reviewing the purchase does have questions about buying texts for middle schools, and has decided to meet again before making a final recommendation. WJXT. The Pasco County School Board is going ahead with plans to buy textbooks that reflect the current Florida standards. Superintendent Kurt Browning suggests it could be several years before the changes ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis go into effect. Gradebook.

Teachers honored: Seven Collier County teachers are presented with Golden Apple awards. They are: Krista Fusco, 4th-grade teacher at Vineyards Elementary School; Jill Striz, 3rd-grade teacher at Village Oaks Elementary in Immokalee; Philip Barton, a band teacher at Immokalee Middle; Kim Benedict, English teacher at Gulf Coast High; Ashley Stafford, a math teacher at Lake Park Elementary; and Stephanie Cashion and Deniece Giovinazzo, who co-teach language arts at East Naples Middle. Naples Daily News.

Crossing guards honored: Dwayne Riedel, a 73-year-old school crossing guard working for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, is one of three Florida crossing guards of the year named by the Florida Department of Transportation. Also honored were Danny Burnett of the Tallahassee Police Department and Nancy Heburn of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Department of Transportation.

Program gone, boarder stays: A 1970s-era program offering free room and board in trailers on some Miami-Dade school properties for police officers to serve as night watchmen was ended in 2002. But at the Vineland K-8 Center in southwest Miami-Dade County, a former Florida Highway Patrol trooper still occupies the trailer. WPLG.

School bus service: Citrus Connection, the public bus service in Polk County, is asking the school board to delay the end of bus service to charter schools until the 2020-2021 school year. It wants the extra time to apply for state grants that could help it continue service to two schools with profoundly disabled students. Lakeland Ledger.

New school planned: The Canadian-based Casa Laxmi Foundation announces plans to build an international K-12 boarding school in Bay County. The school would open in 2021 for grades 6-8, then expand gradually to enroll a maximum of 300 students by 2026. Panama City News Herald.

Teacher being investigated: A Seminole County teacher is under investigation for reading a book about two male bunnies marrying to a class of 1st-graders at Pinecrest Elementary School. The book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, mocks Vice President Mike Pence’s rabbit and his beliefs on same-sex marriage. WFTV.

Teacher keeps job: The Brevard County School Board declines a superintendent’s recommendation to fire a physical education teacher who grabbed a tardy student in a way that left bruises on his chest. Kurt Kaufman, the PE teacher at Central Middle School in Melbourne, was arrested after the incident in October, but the state attorney declined to prosecute. Florida Today.

School threats: A 12-year-old Hillsborough County 6th-grader is arrested after deputies say she falsely reported seeing a gunman in the hallway at Farnell Middle School in Tampa. The school and nearby Bryant Elementary School were secured, with students locked in their rooms, and dozens of deputies streamed through looking for a shooter. The girl later admitted she made up the story. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. Southwest Florida police have made at least eight arrests in the past 10 days for threats against schools. And nearly 900 students stay home from Oasis charter schools in Cape Coral after one threat Tuesday. Fort Myers News-Press. A 13-year-old student at a Flagler County middle school is arrested and accused of making false threats against the school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WJXT.

Students arrested: Two Martin County high school students are arrested after helping a 17-year-old friend sneak into Jensen Beach High School. The 17-year-old is a former student at South Fork High. “I think we would all agree that in the post-Parkland era, the way law enforcement and school officials respond to threats and perceived threats and to any kind of disruptive behavior has radically changed,” says Sheriff William Snyder. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: Teachers who are willing and able to carry guns in schools should be allowed to do so. Lakeland Ledger. The idea for arming schoolteachers came up last year, and it was bad policy then. It’s back again, but it’s still bad. It will always be bad. The people pushing for this have lost their grip on reality. But in Tallahassee, the mindset about guns never changes. So what do we expect? Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. A year after the shootings in my hometown of Parkland, my hurt has turned to hope. Megan Kearney, Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: Timmy Lee, a 15-year-old former Lacoochee Elementary School student, is being credited for organizing the movement to save the school from closure. He’s now a freshman at Pasco High School. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff