Arming teachers, MSD principal reassigned, and more


Arming teachers: The House Education Committee voted Thursday for a broad school safety bill that would expand an existing guardian program to allow classroom teachers to volunteer to carry weapons on campus if local school boards approve. The Republican-led legislation adopted 11-5 along party lines by the House Education Committee builds on a law passed after last year’s mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Tampa Bay Times. POLITICO Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Douglas principal reassigned: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson is under investigation but will remain at the school while his duties are reassigned to other administrators, teachers learned in an impromptu meeting held at the school Thursday. The nature of the investigation is unclear. Miami Herald. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Education costs: A new report by Florida TaxWatch provides an update of the true average cost of educating a K-12 public school student in Florida. The most commonly reported per-student spending figures in Florida are based solely on funding provided through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). For the 2017-18 school year, Florida public schools would have spent an average of $7,307 “per student” in FEFP funding. However, Florida TaxWatch cautions that this figure can be misleading. When expenditures like school construction, voter-approved general obligation bonds, preschool programs, debt service, capital outlay, are factored in, the “true cost” of educating a K-12 public school student during the 2017-18 school year is $10,856. Sunshine State News.

Parental rights: HB 1171 would make law the language that the state and other governments would not be permitted to infringe on the “fundamental rights of aparent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her minor child without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest” in the narrowest and least restrictive way possible. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously Thursday. Tampa Bay Times

Troubled academy:   A viral video that surfaced in October opened the floodgates into the inner-workings of a private nonprofit Christian school in Port St. Lucie with questionable practices, a coach with a troubled past, false promises for rising athletes from all over the world, evictions, name changes and severed relationships with students, staff and others. TCPalm

Teacher arrested: A former Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher already on house arrest on charges of sexually battering two female middle school students was arrested again Wednesday after two more students came forward claiming he raped them. Both girls say Wendell Alfredo “Kimo” Nibbs, a 53-year-old former physical education teacher at Brownsville Middle raped them on multiple occasions in his classroom and in the girls’ locker room at school. One girl says Nibbs may be the father of her child. Miami Herald.

Okaloosa superintendent: A suspended Panhandle school superintendent is facing off with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a legal clash that involves Constitutional questions, different branches of government and the governor’s authority to suspend an elected public officer. Florida Phoenix.

Jax teacher fired: A teacher has been fired after what was called “an inappropriate relationship” with a student at Trinity Christian Academy, according to officials at the private Jacksonville facility. The school reported the relationship between the unnamed teacher and a student to the Sheriff’s Office “in keeping with legal and our own internal reporting guidelines.” No further information on the teacher, who was fired Tuesday, was released. The academy is for kindergarten through high school. Florida Times-Union.

Plea in student murder: Elisha Martin pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges stemming from the February shooting death of a Sebastian River High School student. Indian River deputies arrested Martin Feb. 22, a day after the body of 16-year-old Logan Spencer was discovered along an isolated dirt road in Fellsmere. Investigators said Spencer had been shot in the head at close range, in what Sheriff Deryl Loar called an “execution-style” killing. TCPalm.

Potential abuse: The parent of a 4th grader used a recording device affixed to the child to capture what the child’s advocate claims are disturbing measures carried out and comments spoken by school staff. The case is headed for litigation. FlagerLive.

VPK reform in legislature: House Bill 1193 aims to fix a disjointed evaluation process that has frustrated VPK providers and left education leaders unsure about the results’ validity. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota funding change sought: Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden plans to ask the School Board to revise a longstanding, conservative budget policy in the face of tightening finances. On Tuesday Bowden will propose changing the district’s method of calculating its annual fund balance, amending a requirement that the board maintain reserves totaling at least 7.5 percent of expenditures, according to documents shared with the board in advance of the scheduled work session. Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Imprisoned student supported: Jake Collins, 20, who pleaded guilty to four burglary-related charges, should get probation and a chance to mentor others, his lawyers say in a court motion. The motion contained many letters of support. The former Park Vista High School football standout from Lake Worth, is to be sentenced March 28. Palm Beach Post.

Commentary: More school choice strengthens public education. South Florida Sun SentinelFlorida’s education policy makers have their eyes focused on pushing their school choice agenda farther than it has gone before. But not everyone is on board — including some of the conservatives who hail from the same side of the political divide. Tampa Bay Times. Education options should be within reach for every family. Tallahassee DemocratThe Montessori difference in raising your child. Fort Myers News-PressIf I were still young enough to have kids in Florida’s public K-12 schools, I would want their physics teachers to know their physics and how to teach it effectively, their math teachers to be strong in math content and to understand how best to help my kids learn math, and their English teachers to be strong in understanding and teaching language arts. Bridge To TomorrowAvailable evidence suggests that arming school personnel would decrease, rather than increase, school safety. National law enforcement and educator associations oppose the arming of teachers, as do Gainesville’s city government and police department. Gainesville SunGainesville residents have long shown their support for children and schools. But passing tax initiatives or donating money is different than dedicating your time. A number of local mentoring programs make it easy even for those who might only be able to spare their lunch hour once a week. Gainesville Sun.

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BY David Hudson

David Hudson is SUFS’ Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator and a member of the Policy and Public Affairs (PAPA) team. He is a product of 13 years of education choice in the magnet programs of Pinellas County Schools. He has been with SUFS since May 2017 and lives in St. Petersburg, FL. You can reach him at or 727-451-9835.