Senate voting on parental rights bill, records law exemption, 3 Bay schools closed by fires, and more

Parents’ rights bill: State senators are expected to approve the Parental Rights in Education bill today and send it to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has already expressed support for the legislation. Although DeSantis has yet to commit to signing it into law, it’s widely assumed he will. Friday, DeSantis declared it “inappropriate to be injecting those matters like transgenderism into the classroom.” The bill would prohibit teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity with students in grades K-3, or in other grades if it’s considered age-appropriate. The proposal has sparked protests by students and LGBTQ activists, and the Biden administration has called the legislation hateful and dangerous. Students and religious leaders have scheduled another rally against the bill at 9 a.m. today at the Capitol. The Hill. Florida Politics. DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said opponents of the bill are “groomers” or those who would not denounce “groomers,” a term that is used for people who people who help recruit and prepare children for meeting pedophiles and other abusers. Florida Politics.

Public records exemption: House members overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday that temporarily exempts college and university presidential searches from the state’s public records laws. Personal information about candidates can be withheld for the 21 days before a final selection is made or until a group of finalists emerges. The bill now goes to Gov. DeSantis’ desk. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service.

Also in the Legislature: A late amendment to the bill that would require colleges to periodically switch accrediting agencies is drawing opposition. The amendment filed by the bill sponsor, state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, would allow the Florida Board of Governors to create a uniform standard for post-tenure reviews of faculty, with “consequences for underperformance.” Critics said they worried that a professor who taught a class or wrote an article disapproved by politicians could be terminated. Florida Politics. Senators unanimously approved a bill Friday that requires high school seniors to take a financial literacy course as a condition for graduation starting in the 2023-2024 school year. A House vote on its version of the bill is pending. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Three schools in Bay County are closed today because of wildfires, Lee County School Board members will consider a contract proposal for newly selected superintendent Christopher Bernier, Miami-Dade school officials want to rename a school to link it to its racial legacy, a charter school in Broward closes its doors because of financial problems, Pinellas and Pasco teachers are still waiting for a conclusion to salary negotiations for this school year, Citrus County schools are considering a pay raise for substitute teachers, a veteran Palm Beach County teacher is suspended for hitting students with a yardstick, and the College Board says schools in states that ban “required topics” for Advanced Placement courses risk losing their AP designation. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: District officials have launched a committee to recommend a new name for Colonial Drive Elementary School in the Richmond Heights community of Miami. Colonial played a key role in desegregation when it was built in 1966 with the intention of welcoming both black and white students. Now the district wants to rename the school to help preserve its history. Three names are being considered: Albert Dotson Sr., civic leader and former Florida International University trustee who died last year; Johnnie Parris, a prominent black female civil rights activist who led the effort to build the school; and Eddie Pearson, who began as a teacher in the district and later became the deputy superintendent of school operations. Miami Herald. A 14-year-old student at the Mater Academy charter school in Hialeah Gardens is suing the school district, alleging that he was attacked and bullied by school employees and students for his Christian faith. Daily Caller. The Christian Post.

Broward: The Excelsior Charter School of Broward in Tamarac has closed its doors because of financial problems caused by declining enrollment during the pandemic. It had operated for 17 years with an enrollment of 184 before the pandemic. Five teachers have filed a criminal complaint with the sheriff’s department, alleging the school failed to pay them for their final weeks of work. School principal Raul Baezs denies that. Tamarac Talk.

Hillsborough: Damaris Allen, a longtime minister who is Plant High School PTA president and chair of the school board’s advisory committee, has announced that she will challenge incumbent Stacy Hahn for the District 2 seat on the school board. District 2 was recently redrawn by the Democratic majority on the school board. The race is nonpartisan, but party politics will likely play a role. Hahn is a Republican, Allen a Democrat. Tampa Bay Times.

Pinellas, Pasco: It’s almost spring break week, and teachers with the Pinellas and Pasco school districts still haven’t reached contract agreements with their districts. In Pinellas, the outstanding issues include pay, planning time and other work conditions. In Pasco, the two sides have yet to exchange salary proposals. Meetings are expected this week. Tampa Bay Times. A Pasco school bus driver was injured last week when a man forced his way onto his bus during a stop to drop off students and attacked him. Deputies said Jarrett DeWayne Farr, 37, knocked a radio out of the driver’s hands and spit on his left cheek. Farr is accused of burglary with simple battery/assault, criminal mischief and battery on a school employee. WFTS. WFLA.

Palm Beach: A veteran math teacher has been suspended by the school board for 10 days after an investigation concluded that he used a yardstick to hit students. Prosecutors declined to file charges against Victor Lopez, 49, who described the strikes as taps that were meant to be funny. He was removed from Loggers’ Run Middle and reassigned to Boca Raton Middle. As part of an agreement, Lopez said he wouldn’t appeal if he could serve the suspension days non-consecutively. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: A Fletcher High School student was hospitalized with serious injuries Friday after being hit by a car while riding her back home after school. Witnesses said the driver was also a Fletcher student. WJXT.

Lee: School board members will consider a proposed contract this week for incoming superintendent Christopher Bernier, and anticipate that he will begin the job in May. Bernier, the chief of staff to the superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., was chosen last month to replace interim superintendent Ken Savage, who has led the system since Greg Adkins retired last August. Fort Myers News-Press.

Marion: District officials are planning to start an Early Learning Academy for about 80 pre-K and kindergarten students in the fall. The school has not been named, and would open on the campus of the former Evergreen Elementary School. A 1st grade would be added in 2023 and a 2nd grade the following year. The academy will be a choice school, and students will be chosen by lottery. Ocala Star-Banner.

Alachua: The executive director of the Children’s Trust of Alachua County has been fired after being accused of mistreating employees. Colin Murphy has run the organization, which supports children’s programs around the county, since 2020. Kristy Goldwire, the director of programming who made a complaint against Murphy, was named acting executive director. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: Three district schools have been closed today because of their proximity to wildfires raging in the county. Tommy Smith Elementary School, Waller Elementary and Merritt Brown Middle are expected to be closed today only. “We know this is an inconvenience for many families but we also know that evacuations and other challenges are placing an undue burden on those communities and we want to do what we can to support those families,” district officials announced. WJHG. WMBB. Panama City News Herald. A dispute over student transfers policy has led to the school district to part ways with the North Bay Haven Charter Academy athletic program. Sport teams from the academy will no longer participate in district meets or championship tournaments. WMBB.

Indian River: At least one student was arrested after a large fight Friday at Oslo Middle School in Vero Beach. Deputies said the fight broke out at the end of the school day among fewer than 10 female students. The arrested student was charged with battery on a school board official and resisting arrest. TCPalm.

Citrus: A proposal to raise substitute teacher pay will be considered by school board members at Tuesday’s meeting. Those who are high school graduates or have an associate’s degree would receive $90 a day, while subs with a college degree or higher would receive $100 and state-certified subs would be paid $110. Rates would also go up for long-term subs who have taught at least 10 straight days in the same position. The increases are projected to cost the district $180,000 a year. Citrus County Chronicle.

Levy: Losing her right hand in an ATV accident at the age of 8 has not deterred Payton Stanley, now 15, from playing three sports at Bronson Middle/High School. The 9th-grader plays basketball, volleyball and softball, and said her participation has “really taught me to try new things and to stay motivated.” WUFT.

Colleges and universities: A University of South Florida presidential search committee recommended Friday that both finalists for the job, interim president Rhea Law and Jeffrey W. Talley, advance for campus visits and interviews with trustees. Tampa Bay Times. Four Pensacola families have collaborated to give Pensacola State College $1 million for scholarships in STEM-related programs. Pensacola News Journal.

Around the nation: The College Board said Friday that schools in states that ban “required topics” for Advanced Placement courses risk losing their AP designation. Board officials didn’t offer specifics, but Florida is among the states that is expected to pass laws restricting discussions in schools on such subjects as critical race theory and LGBTQ issues. Today.

Opinions on schools: Contrary to Gov. DeSantis’ statement that wearing a face mask “is not doing anything,” health authorities have consistently said that mask-wearing, even in a low-risk situation, can be effective at preventing transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. PolitiFact. It is in our best interest for educators to help students navigate the discomfort of our nation’s history, because discomfort provides a foundation and impetus for inquiry and growth. Jason Flom, Tallahassee Democrat. The Florida parental rights legislation reminds school systems and activist teachers that parents, not state employees, are ultimately responsible for their children. The activists eager to erase biological sex, transition children, and encourage young children to discuss sexual topics may not like anyone impeding their agenda. Tough. Ginny Gentles, RealClear Education. It’s time Florida legislators put aside the politics and stop the attacks on our LGBTQ and immigrant youth. Orange County School Board member Johanna Lopez, Orlando Sentinel. The Lee County School District’s change from a 4×4 block schedule to a traditional 7 period day attempts to heal a bullet wound with a band aid. Jilan McQuilkin, Fort Myers News-Press. We all want what’s best for our children, but charter schools are no panacea for the Marion County School District. Chris Altobello, Ocala Star-Banner.