Palm Beach schools changing mask mandate, book removed from district libraries, and more

Around the state: The Palm Beach County School District will change its face mask policy Nov. 15 to allow parents to opt-out, Orange County school officials agree with critics and pull a book from the libraries at three high schools, the education commissioner and Florida Department of Education would be given broad authority to punish school districts that are out of compliance with the state’s school safety rules under a bill proposed in the Legislature, about 19,000 Broward teachers and other school employees are eligible for $250 bonuses because they got vaccinated, a Lee County School Board member is under fire from her colleagues, a 10-year-old Marion County student is hit and killed by a car trying to cross a street to get to his school bus, and Flagler’s school board drops the word “equity” from its list of goals. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Almost 19,000 teachers and other school employee have qualified for a $250 bonus from the district by getting vaccinated before Oct. 20. About 75 percent of the teachers and 68 percent of other school workers got their shots. The $4.7 million issued in bonuses came from federal coronavirus relief funds. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: A judge has granted a temporary motion to allow two private school students to play sports with their former public magnet school volleyball teams. Their mother, Amarilis Vazquez, sued the school district, which said the children could only play for the public school they were zoned to attend. Florida Politics.

Orange: School administrators have agreed with parents who complained the library book Gender Queer contains inappropriate material, and have removed the book from schools. “Leadership determined it is not appropriate for the targeted age group and have removed it from circulation,” read an e-mailed statement from Shari Bobinski, a spokeswoman for the district. The book, which contains graphics of sexual acts, was in libraries at Boone, Dr. Phillips and Lake Buena Vista high schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Superintendent Michael Burke said at Wednesday’s school board meeting that parents will be allowed to sign a form opting their children out of the face mask mandate in district schools starting Nov. 15. The decision accelerates the earlier timeline by two weeks. “It’s a nice steady path downward,” Burke said. “I feel confident enough with the conditions and how they’re trending  — that’s our date. Minor fluctuations in the data wouldn’t move me from that.” Employees will still be required to wear masks with opt-outs only for medical reasons. Palm Beach Post. WPEC. WPTV. An appeals court has upheld the 2019 firing of a principal who told a parent he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.” William Latson, who had been at Spanish River High School, could appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court. Palm Beach Post. Vaccinations for children 5 through 11 will be given today through Saturday in a mobile clinic operated by the Palm Beach County Health Care District between the school district’s Palm Springs headquarters and two Riviera Beach elementary schools. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: School board members are criticizing colleague Chris Patricca’s use of district staff to send out a video of her defending herself at this week’s board meeting against former political opponent Jacqueline Perez, whom she claimed was taking videos of her children to use in “her offensive and bizarre videos.” Board member Gwynetta Gittens called Patricca’s actions “embarrassing,” and Melisa Giovannelli said Patricca should resign. Patricca has recently had to apologize for comments made about Guatemalan students in the district, and been the target of allegations that she’s used her position to benefit students in her district at the expense of minority students. WINK. WFTX. WBBH. A 12-year-old Cypress Lake Middle School student has been arrested after allegedly threatening a classmate with a knife on a school bus. WBBH.

Volusia: A 12-year-old Ormond Beach Middle School student, Peyton Lilly, has donated $1,000 to help injured K-9 police dogs. She raised the money by selling face masks she made. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: The vote on extending the extra 1-mill property tax to benefits schools was bitterly contested and was expected to be a close vote. Instead, it was approved with 69 percent of the vote. School board members have some theories on how that happened. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Lake: A 13-year-old Umatilla Middle School student has been arrested and accused of threatening on social media to stage a mass shooting at the school. The student told school officials she made the threat because she was angry after getting in trouble for selling nicotine vapes. WFTV.

St. Johns: Rob Stevenson Jr., a realtor who was a volunteer percussion instructor for Bartram Trail High School and also helped with the bands at Fleming Island High School and Switzerland Point Middle School, died Sunday at the age of 42. St. Augustine Record.

Marion: A 10-year-old 5th-grader at Reddick-Collier Elementary School was killed Wednesday when he was hit by a car as he crossed a roadway trying to get to his school bus. Troopers said Ja’Siah Williams began crossing the road before the bus had stopped, and was hit by a car. The driver said he didn’t see the boy until it was too late, and tried to swerve to miss him. The investigation is continuing.. Ocala Star-Banner. WKMG. WMFE. WESH. WCJB.

Escambia: School board member Kevin Adams said this week that a proposed homeless camp a few hundred feet from Pensacola High School was never discussed and is too close to the high school. The location is one of three suggested by the Homeless Reduction Task Force. The issue will be discussed at a Pensacola City Council meeting Nov. 10. WEAR.

Martin: School board members are considering seven options to redraw school boundaries for the 2022-2023 school year. The board must decide if it wants to limit the rezonings to the district’s three high schools or also consider elementary and middle school enrollments boundaries as it tries to address overcrowding. TCPalm.

Flagler: School board members agreed this week to remove the word “equity” from its aspirational goals. Several board members said they proposed the change after hearing from many people in the community. The goals, which are part of the district’s strategic plan, now list academics, social and emotional well being, talent, improving operational efficiencies, and communications. Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt has defined equity as “how our intention is to be deliberate with our resources to ensure that every student has an opportunity to be successful.” Flagler Live. A student was arrested this week after making threats to shoot other students during a fight over the use of a picnic table at lunchtime. WTLV.

Monroe: School board members said truancy is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. “I’m concerned because we’re losing kids,” said board member Mindy Conn. “Our truancy problems are at all grade levels. … We definitely need to try and do something because our graduation rates, at the rate we’re going now, are going to tank.” Mike Henriquez, who works on student attendance and truancy for the district, defined truant students as ones who have had 15 unexcused absences within a 90-day period. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: The University of Florida’s decision to prohibit three professors from testifying against the state’s official position in a voting rights court case constitutes a crisis for the school, say their peers at other institutions. “I think it represents a sad state of affairs in that we’re seeing state universities bending to the whim of lawmakers. I think this a crisis of higher ed governance,” said Robert Cassanello, an associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, a pediatrician and faculty member with the UF Health College of Medicine in Jacksonville, said he was also told not to participate in three lawsuits about the state’s ban on mask mandates but chose to do so anyway, citing his oath as a doctor. He said he has not yet faced any consequences. Gainesville Sun. The University of Florida has received a $5 million grant to train teachers a program aimed at improving computer science education in schools. Gainesville Sun. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is preparing a fund request for the Legislature to build a Center for Aerospace Technologies at its research park in Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In the Legislature: The education commissioner and Florida Department of Education would be given broad authority to punish school districts that are out of compliance with the state’s school safety rules under a bill proposed this week by state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. News Service of Florida. Only 65 percent of the state’s school districts are notifying parents that they have the authority to review instructional materials, according to a report presented Wednesday to the House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee. Lawmakers from both parties were unhappy with the numbers. “The school districts are not being transparent at all,” said state Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach. “We can do better than that,” said state Rep. Tray McCurdy, D-Orlando. Politico Florida. Bipartisan proposals would require school employees to undergo training to respond to students with epilepsy who have a seizure in school or at school events. The Senate bill was proposed by state Sen. Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, and the House bill by state Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami. Florida Politics.

Education podcasts: Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill, a former union leader in a public school district, presents a vision for how teacher unions can evolve in a world with robust education choice opportunity for families who want it. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: The University of Florida must immediately reverse its decision to not allow three professors to testify against the state’s interests in a court case, before it permanently stains the university’s academic reputation. Darryl Paulson, Tampa Bay Times. The unfortunate decision of the University of Florida to restrict the opportunity of its professors to testify as election experts because their testimony could be contrary to the governor and the majority of our state Legislature is a step backward for Florida and the well-being of our democracy. Cecil M. Scoon, Orlando Sentinel. A multipronged attempt to stifle speech is being brought to you by the same people who want you to believe that they’re the champions of free speech on college campuses. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. If we want to maintain a robust public education system, we must embrace more nimbleness, and the types of public schools that families say they want. Nina Rees, USA Today.