21 dead in Texas school shooting, security in Florida schools tightened, book reprieve, and more

Texas school tragedy: At least 19 students, a teacher and another adult were killed when a gunman opened fire Tuesday afternoon at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The alleged shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was shot dead by police. It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn. In 2018, a former student shot and killed 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Associated PressNew York Times. CNN. Fox News. USA Today. Texas Tribune. Education Week. There have been 27 school shootings in the United States this year, according to data collected by Education Week. NPR. Here’s a list of U.S. school shootings between 1984 and 2021. USA Today Florida Network. Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas bring back painful memories for families of those killed in Parkland. WPLG. WTVJ. WFOR. WPTV. WPEC. WSVN. Security will be increased in schools for the rest of the week in many Florida districts. WJXT. WJAX. WFLA. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WPTV. WKMG.

Around the state: St. Johns County School Board members decide to keep seven challenged books in school libraries, Sarasota County commissioners approve a $5.95 million settlement for a former teacher who was severely injured when she was hit by a county truck while jogging in 2020, the Brevard County public defender tries again to change the county charter to allow school board members to be recalled, an investigation concludes that Marion County School Board member Don Browning did not create a hostile workplace, 38 organizations and 40 individuals are urging the Florida Department of Education to reconsider its decision to no longer participate in the CDC surveys that assess risky behavior by children, Orange County School Board members issue a proclamation declaring June as LGBTQ+ Pride and Pulse Remembrance month, and a Pensacola State College associate math professor was shot and killed Tuesday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Prospective jurors returned to court Tuesday to be questioned about their views on the death penalty during the second phase of jury selection in the sentencing trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz. The illness of a defense lawyer could delay the proposed June 27 start for opening statements. Jury selection is scheduled to continue today. Sun Sentinel. WPLG.

Hillsborough: Carol Chalu, who coached Tampa Prep’s volleyball team to 12 state titles in 21 seasons and was the school’s athletic director for more than 30 years, died May 18 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 71. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: More than a dozen students interrupted Tuesday’s school board meeting by singing their opposition to the state’s Parental Rights in Education law that governs how schools can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. Students left the room when they were asked to by police, and board members later announced support for the students’ concerns and issued a proclamation declaring June to be LGBTQ+ Pride and Pulse Remembrance month. “I was trying to find words to explain how important this proclamation is this year to our youth who are struggling to understand the adults in the world around them,” said board chair Teresa Jacobs. Orlando Sentinel.

Duval, Clay: Just a few hours after graduating from Raines High School in Jacksonville on Monday, 18-year-old Rashaud Fields was shot and killed at a graduation party. No arrests have been made. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX.

Brevard: Two weeks ago, County Charter Review Commission members rejected a request to amend the county charter to allow school board members to be recalled. Now, Public Defender Blaise Trettis, who made the request after board members mandated face masks for students in schools, is proposing to amend another proposal before the commission that would correct a misspelling in a part of the charter that outlines how other county officials can be recalled. Trettis wants to change the language to add school board members to that list of county officials who can be recalled. “I think it is needed because school board members are the only county officers who are excluded from recall under the existing county charter,” he said. Florida Today.

St. Johns: In a 3-2 vote Tuesday after a contentious meeting where several audience members were removed by police, school board members decided to keep seven books challenged by parents in school libraries. Five parents had protested that the books, which included one about a gender nonbinary guinea pig and another about “white privilege,” were inappropriate for young children and didn’t belong in schools. But school officials pointed out that community and district committees reviewed the books and found them acceptable. Another 49 books have been challenged and will be reviewed. St. Augustine Record. WJXT. WTLV.

Sarasota: County commissioners have approved a $5.95 million settlement with a former teacher who was hit by a county work truck in 2020 as she was jogging, dragged 60 feet and grievously injured. Kristen Steward said, “I lost my career as a teacher. The life I had was taken from me. I appreciate Sarasota County acknowledging responsibility.” The settlement won’t be paid until the Legislature includes it in a claims bill. Charlotte Sun.

Marion: An investigation by a Gainesville law firm has concluded that school board member Don Browning did not create a hostile work environment, although it said his actions might have violated the school district’s anti-bullying and anti-harassment policy. The firm was hired by the district after an employee alleged Browning made inappropriate comments about sex, race and gender issues. But his conduct was “not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment,” the report concluded. Browning called the report a political attack by liberals who don’t like him because he was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and “don’t support the governor and his programs.” Ocala Star-Banner. A woman was killed and nine others were injured, including six children, in a five-vehicle crash Tuesday afternoon. Four of the children are special-needs students, and all are listed in stable to serious condition at local hospitals. They were in a small bus from Cradling Hands Transport Inc. Florida Highway Patrol troopers are investigating. Ocala Star-Banner. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV. WOFL. WESH. WCJB.

Okaloosa: The school district will provide students 18 and younger free breakfast and lunch over the summer at 25 locations. Times and dates vary by location. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Bay: School board members have approved bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,000 for non-union teachers who are working at district summer schools. The stipends were already approved for teachers who are in the union. “Basically we are always looking for some way to pay our teachers more and we’re very fortunate that the (federal coronavirus relief funds) became available so we can do that,” said board chair Pamm Chapman. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: An associate math professor at Pensacola State College has been identified as the woman shot and killed Tuesday morning at the Pensacola Fitness gym. Police said Carla Williams, 48, who worked at the college for more than 24 years, was targeted. Kennon Nicholas Farrow, the 39-year-old suspect, was arrested Tuesday night. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

State asked to reconsider: A letter from 38 organizations and 40 individuals is urging the Florida Department of Education to reconsider its decision to no longer participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys that assess risky behavior by children. The state has participated in the annual surveys since 1991. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics.

Around the nation: Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who are on medication do not perform better in class, according to a decade-long study conducted by researchers from Florida International University. “It’s a very surprising finding,” said William Pelham Jr., senior author of the study. Miami Herald. The U.S. Department of Education’s revised Title IX rule guiding how colleges and K-12 schools must investigate and punish sexual misconduct, and protect transgender students has been delayed again, with publication now expected in June. K-12 Dive. State Farm said Tuesday it has pulled out of a partnership with the LGBTQ GenderCool Project to encourage insurance agents to donate three books to schools and local public libraries that touch on LGBTQ themes and are targeted at children 5 years or older. The Hill.

Opinions on schools: There’s no perfect way to respond in real-time to the evolving political controversy over books. But a concept being considered by the Pasco County School District is a practical idea for enabling parents to make choices for their own children without interfering with the rights of others. Tampa Bay Times. Education is the key that can unlock so many doors, and countless parents across the country are asking for nothing more than a chance at it for their children. When we look back at this school year, I hope that legislators and leaders across the country can say they did all they could to help every student succeed. Tera Myers, reimaginED. Florida’s exclusive emphasis on “workforce education” at the expense of giving students a leg up toward bachelor’s and graduate degrees in STEM fields risks steering students (particularly those from working-class families) away from those higher targets toward the easier industrial certification and associate’s degree goals. It’s time for our state’s leaders to deliver a more balanced message so that all of Florida’s students, regardless of skill level, can fulfill their potential. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff