‘Victims of communism’ bill signed, jury selection delayed again, yearbook photo ‘coverup’ and more

‘Victims of communism’ law: Starting in the fall of 2023, Florida high schools will be required to present a 45-minute lesson every Nov. 7 on the “evils of communism” throughout history under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Victims of Communism Day” will also be observed that day in the state Capitol and in places designated by the governor. “We want to make sure that every year folks in Florida, but particularly our students, will learn about the evils of communism. The dictators that have led communist regimes and the hundreds of millions of individuals who suffered and continue to suffer under the weight of this discredited ideology,” DeSantis said, adding that “a lot of young people don’t really know that much” about communism. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Jury selection in the sentencing trial of the Parkland school shooter is being delayed another week, a Seminole County high school principal wants to put stickers over yearbook photos of students protesting against the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law, Volusia school board members are voting today on whether to hire a former administrator as the new superintendent, a Lake County high school band director accused by a student of running a secret society at the school was allowed to resign in lieu of being fired, and charter school enrollment in Leon County rose 32 percent in two years. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Jury selection for the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz has been delayed another week because the lead defense attorney was unable to come to court Monday. While the absence of public defender Melisa McNeill has not been explained publicly, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was overheard last week asking if McNeill was being tested. Monday, her colleague told the judge, “We are very hopeful that we will be able to resume on Monday.” Scherer also said in court that the trial, which is now expected to start in June, could last through October. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WTVJ. WPTV.

Seminole: Yearbook pictures of Lyman High School students protesting the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill may be getting covered up before the books are distributed. The photos show students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign during a walkout protest against the law in March. Danielle Pomeranz, the yearbook’s faculty adviser, said she was told by school officials to check into placing stickers over photos and captions of the protest. Principal Michael Hunter said some photos and captions “did not meet school board policy,” so “rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover the material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible.” Students called the decision censorship. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Volusia: School board members are expected to decide today whether to offer former deputy superintendent Carmen Balgobin a three-year contract to replace Scott Fritz as superintendent. Balgobin, 50, acted as interim superintendent for seven months in 2020 and 2021 while Fritz took a medical leave of absence. She then returned to her role as deputy until last March, when she accepted a job as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for the Broward County School District. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Collier: A former Immokalee High School teacher has pleaded no contest to charges of transferring harmful information to a child via an electronic device and battery. Travis Westberry was arrested last year for inappropriately touching one student and sending nude photos to another. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail. After his release, he’ll be on probation for 3.5 years and will have to register as a sex offender. WINK.

Lake: School board members unanimously agreed Monday to accept the resignation of Leesburg High School band director Gabriel Fielder, who has been accused by a student of running a secret society at the school and covering up sexual messages traded between the student and a guidance counselor. Fielder had requested that he be allowed to resign in lieu of being fired. The board did not discuss the matter before its vote, and Superintendent Diane Kornegay said after the meeting that she had no comment. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: The country’s increasingly political partisan divide has spread to this county’s school board meetings, and many are attributing the change in tone to board member Bridget Ziegler, one of the founders of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, and her husband Christian Ziegler, a county commissioner and the vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida. The Zieglers defend their approach, saying they are being unfairly targeted by critics who “do not like Florida” and its embrace of “freedom” under Gov. DeSantis. Washington Post. The culture wars shift into education, and especially in races for school board seats, is also being felt in other districts around the state. USA Today Florida Network.

Leon: County charter school enrollment has increased by 32 percent from 1,654 students in the 2018-2019 school year to 2,183 in 2020-2021, according to a report prepared for school board members. The latest figure represents 6.6 percent of the total district student enrollment of 32,845. The report identified five charter schools in the county: School of Arts & Sciences on Thomasville Road, School of Arts & Sciences at The Centre, Tallahassee Classical, Tallahassee School of Math & Science, and the Governors Charter Academy. Tallahassee Reports.

Walton: A bookstore in Seaside is offering a free book to every public and private school teacher in the county for their classrooms. Sundog Books is inviting more than 700 teachers to choose a book for children or young adults, or order one if they can’t find one in the store. “We are so fortunate to have such amazing educators in Walton County, and we want to support their efforts by donating books directly to our local teachers to help offset the cost of classroom libraries which, more often than not, comes out the teachers’ pockets,” said Sundog co-owner Linda White. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Colleges and universities: The state’s original questions on surveys to measure intellectual freedom on college campuses asked faculty and students specifically about their gender identity, sexual orientation and religion, according to court documents revealed during disclosure in a lawsuit challenging the survey. The questions were later modified, but the professors who filed the suit point to them as evidence of the state’s intent to use the results as “a political tool rather than a legitimate attempt to improve the (university) system.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: At least 15 states and the District of Columbia saw an increase of 5 percent or more in the number of 9th-graders this school year compared to the 2020-2021 academic year. Educators attribute the increase to higher retention rates brought on by the pandemic. The 74. An Illinois college that was victim of a ransomware attack has decided to close May 13. Lincoln College said the loss of enrollment during the pandemic, compounded by the attack in December, prompted the decision. It’s believed to be the first U.S. college to close in part because of a computer attack. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Deadweight loss, also known as excess burden, is a cost to society created by market inefficiency. It occurs when supply and demand are out of equilibrium. Mainly used in economics, it can be applied to any deficiency caused by an inefficient allocation of resources. In education, that loss is most felt by the poor. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The Biden administration’s misguided effort to put further restrictions on charter schools is an assault on the right of self-determination for low-income and working-class black and brown families and communities in two ways: It attacks the rights of families who intentionally choose these schools for their children; and it attacks brown and black people who govern and lead some of these schools. Howard Fuller, The 74. Martin County School Board member Tony Anderson has been teaching for almost 30 years. But he’s announced he’s taking a leave of absence from the classroom, and doesn’t expect to return. The reason? He’s tired of dealing with unruly students who have no respect for their teachers or the learning process. Blake Fontenay, TCPalm. Since January 2021, Republican state legislators have introduced nearly 200 anti-critical race theory bills in 40 states. Few of these bills actually target the teaching of critical race theory. Instead, these bills are largely messaging bills that draw on talking points from the Trump administration. FiveThirtyEight.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff