Judge’s decisions create confusion at the Parkland school shooter’s trial, school board seats and more

Around the state: The judge in the Parkland school shooting sentencing trial reverses an earlier decision to dismiss all the potential jurors who had already been screened, the longtime Miami-Dade County School Board chair says she isn’t running for re-election, Hillsborough will hold a workshop for employees next week to discuss the implications of the new Parental Rights in Education bill, Hernando school officials are moving forward with a plan to provide a laptop for every district student, Monroe school board members are cool to a developer’s offer to build affordable housing for district employees, Volusia agrees to an $804-a-day contract with the district’s interim superintendent, construction has begun on one of two IDEA charter schools being built in Jacksonville, and University of Florida football players rack up thousands in parking fines. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board chair Perla Tabares Hantman announced Wednesday that she would not run for re-election. Hantman, 81, was elected to the board in 1996, and in November was re-elected as board chair for the 14th time. “I believe the time has come for me to explore the next chapter of my life and enjoy time with my children and grandchildren,” she said. Her decision leaves Roberto J. Alonso, a 42-year-old Miami Dade College trustee appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2020, as the only declared candidate for the District 4 seat. Miami Herald. A French teacher at Southridge High in Miami who disclosed gender information about a student during a class in 2018 will keep her job after a state administrative judge ruled that firing her was too harsh a punishment. After the ruling, Vally Jan-Louis Bastien and the state agreed to a $500 fine, two years of probation and that she would take a class on sexual orientation and gender identity. She now teaches at Frank C. Martin K-8 in Miami. Sun Sentinel.

Broward: There was confusion in the courtroom Wednesday after the judge presiding over the sentencing trial for the Parkland school shooter decided to reverse a decision she made Monday and not dismiss 243 prospective jurors who had been screened during the first two weeks of jury selection. Last week, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed 11 potential jurors who said they couldn’t follow the law if chosen to serve. Attorneys from both sides protested that decision, saying it could lead to an appeal. Monday, Scherer decided to dismiss all 243 potential jurors and start selection over. Wednesday, she reversed that decision, keeping the 243 and calling back the 11 she had dismissed. Jury selection resumes Monday. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. WPTV. A summary of Day 9 of the sentencing trial. Sun Sentinel. A 12-year-old student at Crystal Lakes Middle School in Pompano Beach was arrested Wednesday after allegedly making written threats to “kill people.” Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WSVN. Two 13-year-old students at Gulfstream Academy in Hallandale Beach have been arrested and accused of beating a classmate unconscious on April 1. WPLG. WSVN.

Hillsborough: District officials said they plan to hold a workshop next week to discuss how the Parental Rights in Education law, and others just passed by the Legislature, will affect teachers and the district. Superintendent Addison Davis said the district has asked the Florida Department of Education for guidance. “We’ve got to continue to make certain that all of our leaders are very clear about what we have to do from an implementation perspective and also a monitoring perspective with new language (from the state),” he said. WFTS. WUSF.

Duval: Construction began Wednesday for the first of two Jacksonville campuses being built by the IDEA Public Schools charter company. Both IDEA River Bluff and IDEA Bassett are expected to open in the fall with a combined total of 1,000 K-2 and 6th-grade students, then add two grades a year until they’re K-12 by the fall of 2028. IDEA, a Texas-based company, says it has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for students. WJXT. WTLV. The state’s rejection of 54 math textbooks leaves the school district with limited options and a tight timeline. “Anyone that knows anything about instructional materials knows that if you do not put your order in by the end of the school year, you will not have books at the beginning of August,” said Superintendent Diana Greene. Florida Times-Union.

Volusia: Interim superintendent Rachel Hazel will be paid $804 a day under a contract approved by the school board this week. Hazel, who has been the district’s human resources director, was appointed April 12 after the board fired Scott Fritz. Once a permanent superintendent is chosen, Hazel will return to her previous job and her $423-a-day salary. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Leon: School board members agreed this week to give $70,000 from federal coronavirus relief aid to the Council on the Status of Men and Boys, a sheriff’s office initiative to address the causes of youth violence. “We need to do a deep dive into these neighborhoods and see exactly why these kids are turning to violence, especially gun violence,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WTXL. R. Frank Nims Middle School principal Benny L. Bolden Jr. is the winner of the 2022 Opening Nights at Florida State University Arts Advocate Award, presented annually to a county educator who “provides an outstanding arts education experience for students in our community.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Clay: District 4 school board incumbent Tina Bullock has drawn a challenger in the Aug. 23 primary. Michele Hanson, a principal and teacher in the county for two decades but now retired, has entered the race to represent the western and southern parts of the county. Clay Today.

Bay: School board members have approved the purchase of math textbooks for the 2022-2023 school year. District officials said none of the books was on the list rejected by the state last week. Panama City News Herald.

Hernando: The school district is moving ahead with a plan to provide every student with a touch-screen laptop when schools resume in the fall. The computers will include all needed applications, educational programs and files for students to access, and the district’s wireless network will also be upgraded. “Lack of access to technology can be a barrier for students,” said Superintendent John Stratton. “With One-to-One devices, we can offer students a way to effectively extend time for study and research and lessen the potential for students to fall behind due to limited online tools.” Federal coronavirus relief aid will be used for the initiative. WFTS. Hernando County School District.

Flagler: Jack Petocz, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School who helped organize a statewide student walkout in March to protest the state’s new Parental Rights in Education bill, will receive an award at next month’s PEN America gala in New York City. The group advocates for free expression. Associated Press.

Monroe: A developer has approached the school district with an offer to redevelop the school district’s administrative office property with affordable apartments and build a new 2-story administrative building that would be “delivered as a ‘gray box’ to be built out by the district.” SPLG’s proposal is to build 76 apartments: 56 one-bedroom units, 10 two-bedroom units and 10 three-bedroom units that would be available only to district employees. School board members have put the offer on hold until they meet with their redevelopment task force. “I mean, I like the idea, the plan, but I don’t feel like I know the long game here at this point of how all the pieces are going to fit together financially,” said board member Sue Woltanski. Key West Citizen.

Gilchrist: An 18-year-old student at Trenton High School was arrested Wednesday and accused of making bomb threats against several schools in the area. The boy was a student at Bell High School when the threats were made last month. WCJB. Mainstreet Daily News.

Colleges and universities: Several University of Florida football players have racked up thousands of dollars in parking fines since 2019, and new football coach Billy Napier’s solution is to have the university athletic association lease a premium lot near the stadium that is available only for the players’ use. Fresh Take Florida.

Around the nation: U.S. House Republicans are petitioning to force a vote on a bill that would define gender “based only on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and ban transgender women and girls from playing on female athletes’ teams. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis, when I was a little boy growing up in Florida I had to drink from the “colored” fountain at the Volusia County Courthouse. The “white” water was cool, but ours was warm. This made me feel bad. May I share this with students? Marvin Dunn, Miami Herald. The state’s survey asking college faculty about “viewpoint diversity” on campuses is a steaming pile of fear-mongering, culture-war-stoking, scientifically unreliable garbage. I know this because I was able to go online and pretend I was a non-tenured engineering faculty member with conservative views who felt like I’d be denied tenure because of all the mean and powerful liberals on campus. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff