State withholds funding to Alachua and Broward districts, mask case hint and more

Funding for districts withheld: Federal grant money intended for the Broward and Alachua schools districts has been withheld by the state, just days after the U.S. Department of Education said doing so would be a violation of federal law. Tuesday, the Florida Department of Education withheld $455,000 from Broward and $164,000 from Alachua over their face mask and quarantine policies, which constitutes funding equivalent to the salaries of school board members and the federal grants. School leaders in Alachua said the cuts were made from their October budget before the federal funding arrived. “I am appalled that the state would penalize the district by pulling funding we have not even received,” said Alachua Superintendent Carlee Simon. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. Mainstreet Daily News.

Mask case doubted: An appeals court said Wednesday that parents probably don’t have standing in their lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning districts from imposing face mask mandates without giving parents the right to opt-out. Last month the 1st District Court of Appeal placed on a stay by a circuit court judge’s ruling that DeSantis overstepped his authority. Wednesday, the appeals court issued a five-page document explaining the decision, writing that parents “likely lack standing because the executive order did not appear to take any state action against them.” News Service of Florida.

Around the state: School districts around the state are reporting a surge in threats from students, an Osceola County teacher is under investigation for making boys in her 3rd-grade class clean up a mess someone made in a school bathroom, some Clay County parents are upset over the district’s rezoning proposal, Seminole County school bus drivers are being offered a series of financial incentives as the district copes with shortages, and the Brevard teachers union president tells the school board that staffing, poor student discipline and low morale are the biggest reasons for staffing shortages. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: School officials said Wednesday that they’ve seen a recent surge in the number of threats against schools. The latest was a threat against Jupiter Community High School, which resulted in an arrest. “These threats are no joke and they are taken seriously,” a school district spokeswoman said after the arrest. WPEC. WPTV.

Lee: A 12-year-old student has been arrested for having a stun gun on the campus of Lehigh Acres Middle School. So far this school year, two teens were arrested and accused of plotting a Columbine-like school shooting, two others were arrested for having a gun at school, and three others were detained after the discovery of a plan to set their school on fire. WINK. WBBH.

Brevard: Teachers union president Anthony Colucci told the school board this week that a lack of staffing, poor student discipline and low morale are the three main reasons why there’s a shortage of teachers in the district. About 825 district teachers resigned or retired after the last school year, and 160 instructional positions became vacant this year. “It is an understatement to say that our teachers are worn out,” Colucci said. “The alarm bell for us was that the most common question we’re getting in the office right now is: ‘What is the district policy for resigning?’ ” Florida Today.

Osceola: A teacher at the Celebration K-8 School is under investigation for allegedly making 3rd-grade boys clean up a mess they made in a school bathroom. Students said they had to clean up urine and feces after someone defecated on the floor. Because the teacher didn’t know specifically who did it, she sent all the 3rd-grade boys in to clean it up. The teacher has been reassigned until the investigation is complete. WKMG. WESH. WFTV.

Seminole: A series of incentives to retain school bus drivers were approved by the school board this week. Drivers with perfect attendance can earn up to $1,150, as well as the perfect attendance bonus already listed in the contract. Drivers who refer another drive to the district can earn $500 if that driver is hired fulltime and stays on staff for at least 20 days, and new bus drivers will get  a $250 bonus after 20 days on the job and $300 after 60 days. WKMG.

Volusia: A 12-year-old Heritage Middle School student was arrested this week after accusing to “shoot up” the school. The boy told deputies he was angry after other students made him get off an exercise machine during gym class, and said, “This is why I want to shoot up the school.” It was a joke, he said. WOFL. WESH. A $50 million class action lawsuit has been filed against the district, claiming it discriminates against autistic students. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice settled with the district over a similar complaint. The DOJ found the district was punishing students for behavior they couldn’t control, and it gave the district three years to create new policies for dealing with children with disabilities. WFTV.

Clay: A school district proposal to send a large number of students from Oakleaf Junior and Senior High to schools in Orange Park to help alleviate overcrowding is drawing opposition from parents. School board member Mary Bolla supports the plan, saying Oakleaf High is full and there’s room in Orange Park Junior and Senior High.A final vote is scheduled Dec. 9. WJXT. WJCT.

Flagler: An 11-year-old girl has been arrested a second time for filing false reports of an active shooter at Rymfire Elementary School. Deputies said on Sept. 2, and again Tuesday, the girl filed a false report. WTLV.

Education podcast: Jonathan Butcher of the Heritage Foundations talks with Step Up For Students executive Matthew Ladner about about the history of education savings accounts and how more states appear willing to create the flexible spending option for families seeking additional choice in education. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: A Florida mother describes how a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship to a new school turned her daughter’s attitude toward school around. “My child needed somebody other than her mother to believe in her,” she said. Juanita Fugate, reimaginED. Is it asking too much for Floridians to show a little common decency? Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

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BY NextSteps staff