Term limits, book choices: A bill setting term limits for local school board members and increasing parental involvement in the process of selecting books and materials for classrooms was signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. School board members will be limited to 12 years in office, and boards will have to adopt procedures providing for the “regular removal or discontinuance” of books from schools for inappropriate content or violating state academic standards. “What ends up being in that classroom or in that library … the parent doesn’t necessarily have control,” said DeSantis. “But at that point, once it’s there or going to be proposed, you have the opportunity to review. There’s procedures that will be in place. And, if it violates state standards, if it’s not consistent with what we’ve set out under Florida law, then the parent can prevail.” It and the other bills signed by the governor Friday take effect July 1. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. Tallahassee Democrat.
Physical restraints limited: School officials will no longer be permitted to use physical restraints on students with disabilities after H.B. 235 was Gov. DeSantis signed it into law Friday. School resource officers and guards will be able to use restrictive devices for students in grades 6-12 in emergencies as a last resort. “The use of restraints can be traumatizing and physically harmful for children, and this policy will go a long way toward making sure Florida classrooms are as safe as possible for students with exceptionalities,” said state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who sponsored the measure in the Senate. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.
Help for epileptic students: A bill that will require school districts to create individualized action plans for students with epilepsy or seizure disorders was signed into law Friday by Gov. DeSantis. Plans will be a collaboration between school districts and parents, and will have to be signed by a doctor. They’ll include student symptoms, contact information, medications and accommodations for school activities and trips. School employees who have regular contact with affected students will receive training on how to recognize student symptoms and treat them. News Service of Florida.
Financial literacy instruction: The bill signed into law last week that requires students to complete a one-semester financial literacy course as a requirement for high school graduation was years in the making, say some of the people who pushed for it. In 2007, federal bankruptcy court judges in the Tampa Bay area began lobbying for a bill as a way to educate Floridians about financial matters. Florida is among the states with the highest number of bankruptcy filings, and the Middle District of Florida based in Tampa had the nation’s second-highest total in 2021. “You can see that Floridians, generally speaking, are not financially literate,” said Judge Catherine McEwen, who also sits on the Credit Abuse Resistance Education advisory board. “We would like the folks in Florida to be educated to the extent that we don’t have a job anymore.” Tampa Bay Times.
Around the state: A citywide reading initiative has been launched by the Duval school district and several partners, a former director of a Broward charter school is convicted of embezzling about $390,000 in federal funds from the school and of wire fraud, at least 14 of the KIPP Foundation’s charter school affiliates in Florida and 13 other states received $28.4 million in loans through the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program that were later forgiven, Palm Beach school officials will relocate a bus stop where a student was struck and killed last week, a new Lee County elementary school is expected to be named Tuesday, and the president of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne resigned Friday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Broward: The former director of a Lauderhill charter school was convicted last week of embezzling about $390,000 in federal funds from the school and of wire fraud. Jamika I. Williams, the former president of Advancement of Education in Scholars Corp., a Florida nonprofit that ran the now-defunct Paramount Charter School, faces up to 20 years in prison on two counts of theft and up to 360 years on 18 counts of wire fraud charges. Her sentencing is scheduled June 7. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel.
Palm Beach: District officials have decided to relocate a bus stop where an SUV struck four Royal Palm Beach High School students last Tuesday, killing 15-year-old Tiana Johnson, critically injuring Chand Wazir, 15, and seriously injuring two others. School principal Michelle Fleming didn’t say where the new stop would be, only that it was being moved “out of respect for the victims and families of Tuesday’s devastating vehicle accident, and in an effort to be sensitive to all students utilizing that stop.” Palm Beach Post. The last time the state passed out reward money to school districts, more than 100 Palm Beach County schools received about $10 million, with awards ranging from $5,000 to more than $293,000. But this year the district is one of 12 that won’t be eligible for the money because it defied an order from the state and required students to wear face masks in schools. “It is difficult for me to fathom the Legislature’s willingness to punish our school employees and students by excluding them from this program regardless of their performance to apparently settle some perceived political score,” said Superintendent Michael Burke. Palm Beach Post.
Duval: A citywide reading initiative was launched last week in an attempt to improve reading scores by district students. The Read Jax campaign is a partnership among the school district, Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Kids Hope Alliance and the city of Jacksonville, It includes book fairs, library events, tutoring and more. Superintendent Diana Greene said the whole community needs to get involved. “If we can come together to move the needle, imagine what we can do for our young readers,” she said. Florida Times-Union.
Lee: School board members are expected to give a new elementary school being built in Lehigh Acres a name at Tuesday’s meeting. Amanecer Elementary School is the name recommended by a district committee and favored by board members. The school is expected to open in the fall of 2023. WBBH. Members of the local NAACP chapter plan to meet this week with Cypress Lake High School officials to discuss an incident earlier this month in which two students posted images of school water fountains with signs labeling them “blacks” and “whites” to social media. Fort Myers News-Press. A 14-year-old student at Oak Hammock Middle School in Fort Myers was arrested by deputies last week and accused of sending a threat against the school through a video game account. WFTX.
Volusia: A 17-year-old New Smyrna Beach High School student faces a felony charge for allegedly shooting a school employee in the face with a toy gel-ball gun last week. Deputies said the student discharged the Orbeez gun, lodging a bead in the worker’s nose. He told deputies that he was “horse-playing” with the gun and making a Snapchat video as he shot the employee as part of a TikTok Orbeez Challenge. WKMG. WESH.
St. Lucie: A Port St. Lucie charter school teacher resigned last week after allegations of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. The teacher at Somerset College Preparatory Academy was not named by principal Erika Rains. She said the incident is under investigation by the school and also was reported to the Port St. Lucie Police Department. WPTV. WPEC.
Citrus: The school district has openings for 37 teachers and 50 paraprofessionals, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, according to officials. District spokeswoman Lindsay Blair said elementary education, ESE, secondary English and language arts, math and science are the areas in greatest need for teachers. Citrus County Chronicle.
Colleges and universities: T. Dwayne McCay, president of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne since July 2016, resigned Friday, effective immediately. He said he needed to spend more time with his family. Florida Today. Erika Donalds, a former Collier County School Board member and a longtime school choice advocate who now runs a virtual school company, has been appointed by Gov. DeSantis to the board of trustees for Florida Gulf Coast University. Also appointed to the board were Sunshine Ace Hardware president Michael Wynn, Dynasil Corporation of America president Peter Sulick and GrayRobinson shareholder Luis Rivera. Florida Politics. Santa Fe College’s Blount Hall opens April 8 in downtown Gainesville. The three-story, 87,366-square-foot building, which cost $36.5 million, will expand the college’s reach with 24 classrooms, lab suites, business incubation spaces and student support services. Gainesville Sun. Joan Joyce, the only softball coach in the history of Florida Atlantic University, died last weekend. She was 81. A cause of death was not disclosed. WPTV.
Around the nation: At a time when KIPP Foundation’s revenues and assets grew significantly, at least 14 of its charter school affiliates in Florida and 13 other states received $28.4 million in loans through the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program that were later forgiven. USA Today.
Opinions on schools: While the proposed natural gas facility is estimated to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to the current energy system, UF can do much better. David Hastings and Wendell Porter, Orlando Sentinel. There’s a brutish ugliness in the way Gov. DeSantis invents new ways to be divisive. It’s as if he sees his job as the troll-in-chief on all the hot-button, right-wing talking points of the day. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Why are a select few adults being allowed to decide what others’ children should be reading? Linda Tyndall, Florida Today. As we dive headfirst into what, hopefully, will be Florida’s final testing season, let’s support, but not pressure, our students and teachers as they navigate through this stressful time of year. Dr. Berney Wilkinson, Lakeland Ledger. An incoming college student who is considering a variety of majors that are quite different from each other might be tempted to choose “undeclared” or “exploratory.” Never EVER do that under any circumstances! Do this instead. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.