Students protest Parental Rights bill, Senate OKs test changes, DeSantis defends reaction, and more

Student protests: Students in school districts around the state walked out of classes at noon Thursday to protest H.B. 1557, a bill being considered by the Legislature that is officially named the Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill would restrict what can be discussed in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity. One of the largest protests was in Flagler County, where more than 500 students staged a 12-minute walkout at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and Jack Petocz, a junior who organized the statewide walkout through social media, was suspended. Nicole Bundy, a junior at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, said, “I feel that we have to take our time out of our day to talk about it. It shouldn’t have to be a problem. We shouldn’t have to say it’s OK to be gay.” NBC News. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT. Orlando Sentinel. WJXT. Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH. Florida Politics. WTLV. Florida Today. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. WGFL. Tallahassee Democrat. WMBB.

Testing changes: Senators unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would change the state’s standardized testing system. Testing that now is concentrated toward the end of the school year would instead done periodically, with the goal of cutting back on the amount of testing and getting quicker results so instruction can be tailored to students’ weaknesses. The House’s version is awaiting a floor hearing. It differs from the Senate’s bill by allowing turnaround schools to hire “high-performing charter networks” for two years to help improve their performance and by requiring a grading scale adjustment if 75 percent of a range of schools with one campus type achieve A or B grades. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: Several differences in the Senate and House K-12 education budgets are unresolved and are going to the appropriations chairs to work out. Among them: teacher pay, the $200 million penalty for school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on face mask mandates, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all school workers. Florida Phoenix. An update of the state’s school safety bill was approved Thursday by the Senate and now heads to DeSantis’ desk. It requires additional training for school officers and clarifies expectations for schools. Florida Politics. Legislation (S.B. 248 and H.B. 175) to make female hygiene products free in schools has died, getting no hearings by committees in either the Senate or the House. Florida Politics. A bill providing a public records exemption for college presidential searches is now ready for a vote in the House. Florida Politics. Senators unanimously approved legislation requiring schools to create individualized plans to care for students who have epilepsy or seizure disorders. Florida Politics.

DeSantis defends reaction: Gov. DeSantis’ decision to admonish a group of students for wearing masks at a news conference on Wednesday is drawing criticism from parents of those students and from around the country. “The governor has no right to tell him or anyone they can or can’t wear a mask,” said parent Kevin Brown, who added that DeSantis should “stop bullying kids.” DeSantis’ reaction to the criticism was to share an ad his campaign put out after the incident, with the message: “The political science show cannot go on. It’s curtain call for COVID theater.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WINK. Thursday, DeSantis and Dr. Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general, questioned the use of masks, vaccine mandates and mainstream COVID-19 treatments as they promoted legislation that would protect doctors who do the same from reprisals. Ladapo called the vast majority of the medical community that supports masks and “zombies,” and said that the idea that masks save lives “a lie, and it needs to stop and people need to unbelieve it.” Panama City News Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: The Orange County School Board’s timeline for replacing its retiring superintendent calls for a selection by the end of June, Sarasota school board members unite in asking voters to renew the 1-mill property tax for schools in Tuesday’s election, Amazon is partnering with about 180 colleges and universities in Florida and around the country to offer free tuition and fees for its employees, and an alert school crossing guard in Okaloosa County saves a student on a bicycle from being hit by a speeding truck Wednesday morning. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A representative of a proposed Montessori school in Key Biscayne is asking the Charter Review Commission for a zoning change to allow the private K-12 school to be placed in a neighborhood that doesn’t allow schools unless they’re connected with a church. The commission will review the request March 10. Islander News.

Broward: A 5-year-old student at Pine Lakes Elementary School in Pembroke Pines “allegedly battered” a teacher on Wednesday, according to a police report. The teacher was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries and treated, police said. No other details were available. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: A company owned by Texas-based IDEA Public Schools has bought a mobile home park in Thonotosassa and plans to build a K-12 charter school on the property. Residents of the park were notified Jan. 24 that they had to be out by the end of February. WFTS.

Orange: A new school superintendent could be chosen by the end of June, school board members said Thursday. Several candidates have expressed an interest since Barbara Jenkins announced last month that she was retiring no later than by the end of the year. The school board’s timeline for choosing a replacement includes an online survey and about 10 public forums to ask members of the community what qualities they want in a new superintendent. The job would be posted in early May and applications would be accepted for three weeks before semifinals are chosen by the end of May. Public and private interviews would be next, with a selection by June 28 and a contract in place in July. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A Pahokee High School teacher faces a charge of battery-simple touch or strike after several students complained that he touched them inappropriately and choked them. Stephen Goodman, 52, has been “reassigned to a non-student contact position pending the outcome of the investigation,” district officials said. WPEC. WPTV.

Duval: A 17-year-old Riverside High School student recently earned a second-place finish for his violin performance in the Crescendo International Music Competition held Feb. 12 at Carnegie Hall. William Bell, who has been playing the violin for about a decade, is a member of the Cathedral Arts Project string orchestra. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: The Lakeland High School community is mourning the deaths last weekend of a father and son who both were drum majors in the school band. Aaron and A.J. Bates were driving to A.J.’s audition at Florida State University’s College of Music on Saturday when they were killed in an accident. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: A 13-year-old girl who made a bomb threat against Oak Hammock Middle School, and a 16-year boy who had a knife at Bonita Springs High School were arrested this week, according to sheriff’s deputies. WFTX.

Sarasota: School board members rarely agree unanimously on anything, but they’re united in asking voters to renew the 1-mill property tax for schools in Tuesday’s election. It was first approved in 2001, and generates about $71 million a year that’s used to raise teacher salaries, extend the school day by 30 minutes, improve technology and more. “This goes towards the education of our students. Much of it, around 85 percent, goes to salaries for teachers,” said board member Bridget Ziegler. “I’m very keen on making sure that people understand how important the referendum is.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Okaloosa: An alert school crossing guard saved a student on a bicycle from being hit by a speeding truck Wednesday morning in Crestview. Two guards had stopped traffic on State Road 85, but a truck barreled through the crosswalk just as a student on a bicycle started to cross. Guard Mackenzie Holliday reached out and stopped the girl just in time. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Hendry: Selma Daniels was an educational pioneer in the tiny town of LaBelle, 30 miles east of Fort Myers. She started a school for black students in 1930, when there was none, and for about 36 years educated almost every black child in the town. It closed in 1966 but now there is a movement to restore the building, perhaps as a museum, and fund-raising is underway to create a Selma Daniels Scholarship Fund for a scholarship to pay college tuition for a local student. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: Amazon is partnering with about 180 colleges and universities in Florida and around the country to offer free tuition and fees for its employees. Florida schools participating are University of Florida Online, Florida International University, University of Central Florida, Miami Dade College, Hillsborough Community College, Polk State College, Valencia College and Florida State College at Jacksonville. Tampa Bay Times. Fortune. WTSP. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has awarded $650,000 in grants to Florida A&M University and four other historically black U.S. colleges and universities to help maintain the historic campuses, buildings and landscapes. WGFL. Florida International University’s Board of Trustees approved a $503,000 one-year contract for interim president Kenneth Jessell, which is a almost $500 more than they paid Mark Rosenberg, who resigned in January following misconduct allegations. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Financially punishing the 12 school districts that defied Gov. DeSantis’ ban on face mask mandates will harm students of color the most. Adora Obi Nweze, Sun Sentinel. How can a man, whose wife was being treated for cancer, thoughtlessly walk up to strangers — active high school students at that — and bully them into taking off the masks protecting them and others from COVID-19 infection? Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff