Arming teachers, changes for students, expected voucher challenge and more

Arming teachers in schools: By fall, teachers in some Florida school districts could be carrying concealed weapons in classrooms. Here’s what nine teachers from around the state have to say about that. Tampa Bay Times. The largest 26 school districts in the state say they will not arm teachers. Guardian. State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, represents the area where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located and served on the state commission investigating the massacre. So when it came time to vote on the school safety bill, she had conflicting thoughts. Sun Sentinel. Questions and answers about the details of teachers carrying guns. Tampa Bay Times. Manatee Superintendent Cynthia Saunders says she can’t support arming teaching in schools, but says, “I’m grateful the Legislature allowed it to be left up to the individual districts.” Bradenton Herald. Citrus County Superintendent Sandra Himmel tells a group of business leaders she won’t recommend arming teachers. Citrus County Chronicle. A Daytona Beach company is offering teachers free concealed weapons classes to all Florida teachers. WOFL.

New student life: Life could change significantly for some public school students in Florida next fall. Here are seven initiatives passed by the Legislature that will have a direct impact on students, ranging from students in middle schools having to make career plans to bolstered civics education to having new, alternative pathways to graduation. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida.

The looming voucher challenge: A prominent Tallahassee attorney says he has been approached about launching a court challenge to the Legislature’s new state-funded scholarship to send students to private schools. Ron Meyer, who successfully challenged a similar law more than a decade ago, says he doesn’t expect a decision immediately but contends “there’s a lot of fertile ground for lawyers on this.” He also doesn’t believe the notion that it’s a sure thing the Florida Supreme Court will deliver a favorable decision for the state just because Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed three justices. “To suggest that this is Gov. DeSantis’ court and it will uphold his policies is demeaning to the court,” he says. Gradebook.

Security in schools: Two U.S. representatives from Florida sponsor a bill to improve identification of threats to schools and to boost funding for student suicide prevention. U.S. Reps. Ted Deutsch, a Democrat from south Florida, and Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from the Tampa Bay area, would authorize training to students and staff at schools for “threat identification, triage and intervention, as well as guidance and protocol for coordinating with local law enforcement using established school threat assessment models.” Florida Politics. A majority of U.S. school districts now use the “Run, hide, fight” approach to dealing with gunman in schools. “In all honesty, I don’t know of another strategy,” said South Carolina teacher Kelly Chavis. “What else would you do if you did not try to get away in a situation?” Associated Press.

Stoneman principal resigning: Ty Thompson, the principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the 2018 shooting in which 17 people died, says he is stepping down at the end of the school year. He was not on campus the day of the shooting, but has been under investigation by the school district since March and had been give new duties. Thompson, 47, said the event has taken a toll on him. “Advisors and fellow colleagues always said take care of yourself. If at any point you feel like it is affecting your family or your health you need to make a change,” he said in a recorded message to parents. “That time has come.” Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Charter threatens appeal: A charter school company whose application was turned down by the Polk County School is threatening to launch a “costly” appeal process if the board doesn’t reconsider its decision. Yeneir Rodriguez-Padron, board chair of BridgePrep Academy, said the school was denied “adequate due process in hearing its application.” The application was denied when the board voted 3-3 on it. Board member Kay Fields missed the meeting. Lakeland Ledger.

Contract negotiations: The Collier County School District and its teachers union have begun contract negotiations. Working conditions and changes to the existing agreement are the first things being discussed. Salaries and benefits won’t be negotiated until both sides submit proposals. Naples Daily News. More than 90 percent of Pasco County teachers vote to ratify their contract agreement with the school district that calls for an average 2.7 percent pay raise. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s defense: The attorney for suspended Okaloosa County school superintendent Mary Beth Jackson argues in a memo to a Senate special master that she should be commended, not suspended, for making the district one of the top-performing  in the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Jackson in January for neglect of duty and incompetence. Her appeal of that decision will be heard by Senate special master Dudley Goodlette on May 28-29. He will then present a recommendation to the Senate to remove or reinstate her. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Interim superintendent: The Indian River County School Board will interview three candidates today to become interim superintendent. They are: Susan Moxley, who was superintendent for nine years in Lake County before retiring in 2017; James Parla, an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University in New York who has about 18 years of superintendent experience in New York and New Jersey; and Genelle Yost. who was the superintendent in St. Lucie County for two years before retiring in 2015. Current Superintendent Mark Rendell has resigned, and his last day is May 24. TCPalm.

Teachers’ housing problems: More than 25 percent of the teachers in the metro Orlando area who are the primary wage-earners for their families spend more than 30 percent of their income for housing, according to a new study. The study, by, analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and other research. It finds that teachers are being driven into financial hardship by the rising cost of housing. Orlando Sentinel.

Dual enrollment: The Sarasota County School Board has approved a new dual-enrollment agreement with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Courses for college credits will be available to qualified students online, at USF Sarasota-Manatee and at some high schools. WUSF.

School programs: A University of Florida professor has received a grant to offer after-school courses in cryptography for elementary students between the ages of 7 and 10. Preference will be given to girls and black students, said associate professor Pasha Antonenko, because reaching underrepresented groups was a goal for the Codebreakers group. The project was made available by a $956,733 grant from the National Science Foundation. Gainesville Sun.

Vaccinations lag: The number of kindergarten students citing a religious exemption for vaccinations is at a four-year high for students in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties, according to Florida Department of Health data. The number of 7th-graders using religious exemptions is also up for the fourth straight year. WINK.

Vaping concerns: Nassau County school officials say the number of tobacco-related incidents has doubled this school year from last, and they attribute it to the widening availability of vaping devices. Incidents have been reported at all levels of schools. WJXT.

Substitute honored: Mary Harn, a substitute teacher at Lake Gibson Middle School in Polk County, is named substitute teacher of the year for the state by Kelly Educational Staffing, which provides subs for districts around Florida. Lakeland Ledger.

When pranks go wrong: Senior pranks cause serious damage at one Hendry County high school and some embarrassment at another. About 40 students broke into Clewiston High School and painted graffiti, egged walls, adorned the school with toilet paper, glued keyholes and destroyed auditorium stage curtains. Damage is estimated at $50,000. At LaBelle High School, hackers got into the school computer system and sent an email to parents announcing a “mandatory penis inspection” for all male students, staff and faculty. WFTX. WBBH.

Teacher arrested: Deputies say a Lake County teacher has been arrested and accused of several counts of battery on a student. Jason Misner, a geometry and musical theater teacher at East Ridge High School in Clermont, was involved in inappropriate conduct with his students, deputies say, and has been under investigation since May 1. WFTV. Daily Commercial.

Teachers reassigned: The Broward County School District has reassigned a teacher and an aide at Pasadena Lakes Elementary School in Pembroke Pines after they were caught in an audio recording making profane remarks toward autistic students. A parent who became suspicious when his child began cursing at home placed a device in his son’s backpack that allows parents to listen in. He heard the teacher and aide cursing and threatening students, who are mostly nonverbal. WSVN.

Coach suspended: The girls lacrosse coach at IMG Academy in Manatee County is reportedly suspended after she was accused of making inappropriate remarks to members of the team. About 19 players complained about Kaleigh Gibbons to the school, which would not confirm the suspension but said it is investigating. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Students arrested: Three Union County High School students are arrested and accused of threatening a shooting at the school. The three, all seniors, posted “Get ready for Columbine part 2” on Snapchat. WJAX. A Brevard County student is arrested after making “menacing comments” toward Bayside High School in Palm Bay on Snapchat and in text messages. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: School vouchers aren’t the catastrophic blow to public education that some critics portray them to be. But lawmakers must strengthen the requirements for participating schools to ensure we’re not creating a parallel, unaccountable school system that allows bad actors to get mixed with quality private schools. Florida Today. Winners in this year’s legislative session include those who support arming teachers, for-profit education companies and school board members. Sun Sentinel. Why aren’t Florida lottery funds supporting education? The short answer is that while Floridians voted for a lottery as a supplement to K-12 funds, the supplement never happened. Florida Times-Union. When it comes to school start times, Florida’s high schools are operating in the dark ages. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Florida’s low-income families deserve a real shot to break the cycle of poverty. The Family Empowerment Scholarship gives them a chance to do so. Eric Hoppenbrouwer, Florida Today. In its first school year, the Magic Bark Bus visited all 33 elementary schools in Marion County, established a special reading program at test-score-challenged Oakcrest Elementary and, in the process, engaged 20,000 local elementary students. And it was done without a single dollar of public funds. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner. Florida editorial boards are at war with the right of Florida families to exercise autonomy in education. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Thank a teacher by giving them a raise, not empty praise. Elizabeth Randall, Orlando Sentinel. Nobody will be celebrating guns in the classroom next fall. But, despite all the alarming arguments heard in the legislative session, and the week since it adjourned, the new law is not really going to change much. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Fifty south Florida band students from 50 schools receive trombones through a foundation that honors the memory of Alex Schachter, a 14-year-old trombone player in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marching band who was killed in the 2018 shooting at the school. Sun Sentinel. Graduating seniors are honored for perfect attendance. WKMG. Sun Sentinel. Students from the Millennia Gardens Elementary School in Orlando get to feed heads of lettuce to manatees at SeaWorld Orlando. Orlando Sentinel. The Orange County School District names its “super scholars.” Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff