No LGBTQ month in Miami-Dade, fourth suit against Stop WOKE Act, school safety, and more

Around the state: Miami-Dade’s school board votes against recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month out of concerns that approving it would violate state law, a fourth lawsuit has been filed against the state’s new Stop WOKE Act, several districts have met or are meeting with Department of Education officials to discuss school safety issues raised in the statewide grand jury report, Pinellas teachers union officials reject a $52,000-a-year starting teacher salary offer from the district, results from new state assessments tests are late in Lee County, Leon and Flagler school board approve budgets, and seven large Florida school districts have only spent between 4.8 percent and 14.5 percent of the federal coronavirus relief funds they’ve received. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: There will be no LGBTQ History Month recognized by the school district this October. School board members voted 8-1 against the idea Wednesday after more than three hours of a bitter debate. Board members said they were concerned that approving the proposal, which included instruction about landmark Supreme Court cases on same-sex marriage and protection for gay and transgender workers against firing, would violate the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, even though their own attorney said the recognition was on solid legal ground. The decision pleased dozens of parents and members of the community who spoke against it. The law bans teachers from leading classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation for students in grades K-3, and for older students unless the lessons are “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” Miami Herald. Politico Florida. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. The statewide grand jury’s criticism of the Miami-Dade County School District centered on the district’s 2015 statement that it would not suspend students out of school. The district misused alternative placements to house these students or “simply instructed students not to come to school, in an attempt to circumvent” the reporting of suspensions to the state, the letter from the DOE stated. “(The district) has taken a proactive role by implementing a number of measures to improve and align data reporting to address matters regarding student discipline,” said spokeswoman Jaquelyn Calzadilla Diaz. Sun-Sentinel.

Broward: The Florida Department of Education is demanding that school Superintendent Vickie Cartwright dismiss all district employees whose “failed decisions on school safety” were pointed out in the recently released statewide grand jury report. “Before our collective work can truly and credibly ever demonstrate that Broward County Public Schools has seriously embraced safer schools for the district’s students and faculty, issues remain that require your immediate attention,” DOE’s Safe Schools director Tim Hay wrote in a letter Wednesday to Cartwright. “Specifically, we have found the district still has employed district officials from the previous administration who guided failed decisions on school safety.” The letter didn’t specify the employees by name, but the grand jury report negatively mentioned Jeff Moquin, chief of staff under both Cartwright and former superintendent Robert Runcie; Judith Marte, who resigned as chief financial officer under Runcie and was rehired by Cartwright as a deputy superintendent; and David Watkins, director of climate and diversity. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A 13-year-old student at Franklin Middle School in Tampa was arrested Wednesday after Tampa police said they found a loaded gun in his backpack. The student was showing off the gun at school, another student told officers. The student said he brought it for protection. WFLA. WTSP.

Orange: In a meeting Wednesday with Florida Department of Education officials over the statewide grand jury’s criticism of the way the district dealt with crimes committed by students in Apopka, Orange administrators insisted they “took the required appropriate action.” From 2016 through 2019, the grand jury alleged, school officials “hampered” law enforcements and reported “suspect” crime data to the state. But Apopka Police Chief Mike McKinley said in a statement that his department and the school district have worked on the reporting of crimes for years. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV. WKMG.

Palm Beach: The school district’s training of safety officers for charter schools was the focus of criticism from the statewide grand jury, and the primary topic of the state’s meeting Sept. 2 with Superintendent Michael Burke. In 2019, the district hired a private company to handle the training for charter school guards. But that training fell short of state standards, and the sheriff’s office had to take over. “(The district’s) decision to bring on a private vendor and the subsequent fallout resulted in a great deal of confusion, unnecessary expense and, eventually, litigation,” the report stated. WPTV. Sun-Sentinel.

Duval: Superintendent Diana Greene has responded to the state Department of Education’s letter about ongoing underreporting of campus crimes by noting changes made since the statewide grand jury report was released. Greene said she would welcome an in-person visit from DOE officials to “continue our ongoing collaboration in this area.” She also said she hopes the DOE will provide formal feedback from a May 19 site visit “so that my team and board can determine if additional actions are needed.” WJXT. A school safety officer has resigned after he was arrested Tuesday on charges of lewd and lascivious battery encouraging or enticing a victim younger than 16 to engage in sexual activity, battery and contributing to the delinquency of a child. Shaun Lorenzo Golphin, 42, had been assigned to Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Pinellas: The teachers union has turned down a district contract offer of $52,000 a year for starting teachers because they worry that there will be little money left for veterans. Union president Nancy Velardi said the salary compression caused by higher starting pay but meager raises for longtime teachers is “not going to work.” She wants raises averaging 11.3 percent across the board. District officials have countered with 4 percent. “We have put this proposal together with the intention of paying our employees as much as possible while also remaining fiscally responsible,” said Paula Texel, the district’s associate superintendent for human resources. The next bargaining session has not yet been scheduled. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: The new state assessments testing system, which calls for students to take exams periodically throughout the school year and for the results to be reported within two weeks so teachers can concentrate on student weaknesses, isn’t working as planned yet. In Lee County, students who took the exams weeks ago still haven’t gotten the results. Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said he’s not surprised. “Our concern from the beginning was they weren’t putting in the law, the requirements to make that happen,” he said. “And here’s where we are. It’s not happening the way the governor promised.” WINK.

Sarasota: School board members voted this week to update district policies to comply with new state laws. Among them: a “parent must be notified” if any district employees are told by a student they are gay, transgender or questioning their gender. The only exception is if a student feels endangered, and in those cases the district would contact the Department of Children and Families. And parents now have the option to opt their student out of medical care from school nurses. Board member Shirley Brown encouraged parents to consider that carefully, because if they opt-out they will have to be notified before district nurses can address even such minor injuries as a scraped knee. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Leon: A budget of $653 million was approved this week by school board members. That’s $83 million, or 15 percent, higher than last year’s. Leftover federal funds, increased money from the state and a booming housing market combined for the increased district revenue, leading Superintendent Rocky Hanna to note, “We’re in a really good place.” About 75 percent of that $83 million is in federal funds, which are nonrecurring and will be gone by the end of 2024. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. A 15-year-old Lincoln High School student who allegedly threatened to commit a mass shooting at the school was arrested Wednesday. He made the threat on the social media platyform Discord, deputies said. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Students who are back in school but need a little extra learning time have a free option to attend the Saturday Academy at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, which begins this week and continues from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The volunteer-driven program was founded in 2009 by retired educators Catherine Mickle and Tennessee Jones, and includes instruction in academics, STEM, life skills and cultural enrichment. Gainesville Sun.

Flagler: School board members approved a $201 million budget this week, which is about 9 percent higher than last year’s. About 83 percent of the budget goes for employee salaries and benefits, with 11 percent going to purchasing services, 3 percent for utilities and 3 percent for supplies and textbooks. The district is also pulling $1.5 million from its reserves, leaving $5 million in that fund. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Columbia: An extra half-cent sales tax for schools is on the November ballot. If approved, the tax would generate about $6 million a year that the district would use to tear down four schools, build two new ones and upgrade 14 others. WCJB.

Taylor: A former teacher at a private Christian school has been arrested for the second time over her actions with a student. Julie Hoover, 39, a former teacher at Point of Grace Christian School in Perry, was arrested this week and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and of an authority figure soliciting or engaging in lewd conduct with a student. Deputies said she pressured a student to drink and also “twerked” on him at the school’s prom in April. She was first arrested in June for allegedly sexting with an 18-year-old student. WCTV. WJHG.

Spending relief funds: The top 25 U.S. school districts have spent just a small fraction of the federal coronavirus relief funds they’ve received to help students recover overcome the learning they lost during the pandemic. Seven of those districts are in Florida. Miami-Dade has spent 14.5 percent of money received through the American Rescue Plan, Broward 13.4 percent, Hillsborough 13 percent, Orange 4.8 percent, Palm Beach 6.8 percent, Duval 10.2 percent and Polk 14.4 percent. Under the legislation, funding has to be obligated by September 2024 and spent by March 2026. Districts are pushing the USDOE for an exptension. The 74.

Another Stop WOKE suit: A University of South Florida professor, an undergraduate and an organization have filed the fourth lawsuit challenging the costitutionality of the law that restricts how race can be taught in classrooms and used in the workplace. USF associate professor of history Adriana Novoa, student Samuel Rechek and the First Amendment Forum at University of South Florida argue that the law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis called the Stop WOKE Act, violates speech rights, due process and a state law known as the Campus Free Expression Act. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Around the nation: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called on school districts Wednesday to improve teacher salaries to attract people into the profession. “If we’re serious about lifting the profession, if we’re serious about lifting education, we must invest in our educators,” he said. “Investing in our educators is an investment in our students.” States Newsroom.

Opinions on schools: After the release of student test scores that are nothing short of dismal, parents and taxpayers deserve a reminder of what actually transpired in the waning months of school closures due to the pandemic. Jonathan Butcher, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff