Duval school workers claim vaccination bonuses, school taxes, 6-year-old Baker Acted, and more

Around the state: About 56 percent of Duval County School District employees claimed $200 bonuses for getting COVID-19 vaccinations, two new deputy superintendents making more than $200,000 a year are hired in the Broward County School District, Hillsborough school board members are troubled by a report that the mental health of district students has deteriorated during the pandemic, Lake County School Board members decide to ask voters in November to renew an extra 75-cent millage tax for school safety, students at an Alachua County school will move to a temporary campus while their new school is being built, after-school activities scheduled today have been canceled by both the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts because of the potential of severe weather in the area, a 6-year-old Jacksonville charter school student with special needs was handcuffed and placed in a mental health facility for three nights for being disruptive in class, and a historic Palm Beach County school is getting a $40 million facelift and a new mission. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Two new deputy superintendents have been appointed by Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and unanimously approved Tuesday by members of the school board. Carmen Balgobin, 50, becomes the deputy superintendent for teaching and learning and will be paid $220,000, and Judith Marte, 63, will be deputy superintendent for operations and make $225,000. For the past two years, Balgobin has been a deputy superintendent in Volusia County. Marte, a former Broward chief financial officer, has worked in the same role at Florida Virtual School since last July. Sun Sentinel. A 14-year-old South Plantation High School student is facing a charge of battery after allegedly beating a classmate at the school March 10 and then pouring a chemical on her that is suspected to be bleach. WSVN.

Hillsborough: District students are showing signs of depression, suicide and substance abuse at or above national and state averages, school board members were told Tuesday by officials of community organizations that deal with troubled students. “If we don’t address this, and we see it now, it will continue to grow legs and be a major, major issue that really majorly impact our children along the way,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. Board member Henry Washington said the mental health of students has to be improved. “COVID brought out a lot,” he said. “We all have had problems. We need to work on it.” WTSP.

Orange: A teacher and baseball coach at Wekiva High School in Apopka has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. Keith Bakari Ivey II, 25, is charged with soliciting sexual activity with a child and sexual battery on a child 12 years of age or older but under 18 years of age by a person in custodial authority. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A historic West Palm Beach high school is getting a $40 million renovation that, when it opens in the fall of 2024, will offer new academic programs for high school juniors and seniors, an opportunity for industry certifications, a flagship public health clinic, a neighborhood grocery store and food co-op, a library with computer access for residents and flexible space for other activities. Roosevelt High School opened more than 70 years ago as one of the first county high schools for black students, but changed missions several times and was most recently home to a charter school. Palm Beach Post. Sheriff Department officials said charges are “likely” to be filed against the 57-year-old driver who hit four Royal Palm Beach High School students at a school bus stop last week, killing two of them, though they could not say when they might be filed. WPTV.

Duval: About 6,800 school employees, or 56 percent of the district total of 12,000, took advantage of the district’s offer of getting paid $200 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. School board members approved spending up to $2.4 million for the incentive program, but only $1.4 million was claimed. The bonuses were paid with federal coronavirus relief aid. Florida Times-Union. A 6-year-old Jacksonville charter school student with special needs was handcuffed and placed in a mental health facility for three nights for being disruptive in class. The boy made threatening comments and lunged at a Seaside Charter school resource officer’s weapon, his mother was told, and he was committed under the Baker Act. WTLV.

Brevard: School board members gave district staff the go-ahead Tuesday to work on the language for putting a property tax hike on the ballot to fund salary increases for employees. Once the impact of such a tax hike is established, board members will decide whether to ask voters to approve it. Florida Today.

Lake: School board members decided Tuesday to ask voters in November to renew an extra 75-cent millage tax for school safety. The request now goes to county commissioners, who must approve the placement on the ballot. Revenue from the tax pays for school safety guardians, mental health professionals to counsel students, nurses for every school, and more. WKMG.

Sarasota: District officials have updated their gender diverse student guidelines to advise school employees to use a student’s preferred pronouns only after getting consent from the student’s parents. The guidelines were introduced in 2018, and at that time encouraged school employees to use the pronouns preferred by students. WTSP.

Leon: A 16-year-old Lincoln High School student was arrested Tuesday and accused of possession of a weapon on school property. School resource officers were tipped that the boy had a weapon in a park near the school, and said he still had it when he returned to the campus. It was a handgun-style pellet gun, deputies said. WTXL. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Next fall, about 800 Westwood Middle School students will move to an adjacent temporary campus while their new school is being built. Westwood was built in the 1960s, and district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said, “All anybody has to do is walk that campus to know why reconstruction is needed on that campus. It is very old and it’s certainly not up to date, technologically. It’s just not an optimum learning environment.” The so-called “swing” school is made up of modular buildings and was used to house 600 Howard Bishop Middle School students while their main campus was under construction during the 2020-2021 school year. Gainesville Sun.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: After-school activities scheduled today have been canceled by both the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts because of the potential of severe weather in the area. Forecasters say considerable damage from winds of up to 80 mph, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible throughout northwest Florida. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. WKRG. Santa Rosa County School District.

Monroe: The only Catholic school in Key West has announced plans to renovate its 17,500-square-foot auditorium so it can gradually expand its preK-8th campus through 12th grade by the fall of 2025. The Basilica School of Saint Mary Star of the Sea is among the Archdiocese of Miami’s schools that had strong enrollment growth over last year. The high school will offer dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses as well as extracurricular activities, clubs and sports programs. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: At their meeting Tuesday, members of the Florida Board of Governors endorsed the passage of a bill that requires state universities to switch accreditors after their current cycle. The state’s longstanding accreditor, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, has been wielding “undue influence” and is interfering in the relationships between the board and the schools, they said. Politico Florida. Supporters of the University of Florida’s plan to build a graduate school in downtown West Palm Beach say they’re hopeful the $100 million allocated in the state budget by the Legislature for the project will not be vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor’s representatives have been noncommittal about his intentions. Palm Beach Post. Four Florida law schools were among the top 100 in the United States, according to the latest rankings of graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report. Miami Herald. WCJB.

Parents’ right rhetoric: Some Republicans who have objected to the characterization by critics of the Parental Rights in Education bill as forbidding the word “gay” to be uttered in schools have taken to calling critics of the bill “groomers,” a word that is used to describe how pedophiles contact and prepare their victims. Associated Press. Gov. DeSantis said Tuesday that the bill will probably be interpreted and enforced differently by school districts around the state. “You may see some parts of the state could come to a little bit different conclusions depending on the years on some of that stuff,” he said, without specifying what he meant by “some of that stuff.” Florida Politics.

Around the nation: A new study of 4,000 children in Tulsa, Okla., suggests that those who attended state-funded preschools are more likely to attend school regularly and take more challenging courses in high school than those who were in federal Head Start programs or didn’t attend early education organizations. The study appeared in the journal Child Development. Education Week. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced it will resume requiring SAT and ACT scores from 2023 applicants. MIT was among the schools doing away with the requirements due to the effects of the pandemic, but it joins the University of Florida and select other schools that still require the test results from applicants. CNN. Washington Post.

Opinions on schools: This governor, who has often said how much he despises political theater, sat down in front of students holding signs that said “Protect Children.” And signed legislation that actively, knowingly, purposefully puts children in danger. Those children, used as scene-setting pawns in a war they didn’t understand, may someday feel shame. We doubt Gov. DeSantis will. But he should. Orlando Sentinel. What kind of Florida is being shaped by the anti-gay, anti-black and anti-women bills passed by radical-right lawmakers and engineered by Gov. DeSantis and his “yes, sir” team? One granted permission to hate, exclude and always, always, put self first. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. Those of us living at the intersection of multiple oppressed identities, especially black transgender youth, experience higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts than our cisgender black peers and with much fewer culturally competent resources available than our white trans siblings. But a University of Texas study has shown that trans youths who were able to simply go by their chosen or affirmed name and pronouns experienced a 65 percent decrease in suicide attempts. Lazarus Letcher, Florida Phoenix.