Lawsuit against parents’ rights law refiled, Cruz sentencing hearing begins, and more

Around the state: A group of students, parents and teachers has filed a revised lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Parental Rights in Education law that forbids instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for K-3 students and restricts it in other grades, the two-day sentencing hearing for the Parkland school shooter begins today in a Broward courtroom, Miami-Dade parents have concerns about building conditions at an elementary school, school board elections in several districts are profiled, and a Brevard County senior who was named homecoming king gave his sash and crown to a brain-damaged classmate. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A group of parents has gone to administrators at North Beach Elementary School in Miami Beach about the condition of the school. They say classrooms have rats, that ceiling tiles are falling because of water intrusion, and that rusty rebar is showing in some places. “We have young kids here and we want to make sure they’re protected,” said parent Richard Segal. “There’s rebar that’s shown in various places, there are ceilings that were coming down as of last week because of water intrusion.” District officials said repairs have begun, and the school is in no danger of collapsing. WTVJ.

Broward: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole during a two-day hearing that begins today. But first, he will hear directly from the families of the 17 people he killed. “Tomorrow, Wednesday, that ends this chapter, and we move on with just remembering Chris and the other 16, the bright lights that they were in our world,” said school board member Debra Hixon, whose husband Chris died Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “We honor them with positive action and no more of the ugliness.” WSVN. Associated Press. Outrage over the penalty verdict could lead to changes in state laws governing rules regarding death sentences. WTVJ. What will life in prison be like for Cruz? WTVJ.

Hillsborough: The parents are questioning a report that described how their 18-year-old disabled daughter died last week in the Riverview High School cafeteria. Kamilyah Omar, who was born with cerebral palsy, began choking during lunch Oct. 26. She was taken to a hospital, where she had multiple heart attacks and died. Her mother and stepfather, Khaliah Omar and Marcus Williams, said they were told that Kamilyah had a seizure and was given the Heimlich maneuver. “But why are you doing the Heimlich if you wrote on the incident report that she had a seizure?” Williams asked. He and Omar are working with the school to get all the records of the incident. WTVT.

Palm Beach: Two school board races will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election. In District 6, parental rights advocate Jennifer Showalter is challenging 12-year incumbent Marcia Andrews. In District 7, Edwin Ferguson and Corey Michael Smith are competing to replace Debra Robinson, who chose not to run for re-election. Two other incumbents, Erica Whitfield and Karen Brill, were re-elected by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 23 primary. Palm Beach Post. District officials are offering eight new science and language choice programs at six schools for the 2023-2024 school year. Applications may be filed today, and a lottery for the placements is scheduled in March. Palm Beach Post.

Brevard: Immediately after being announced as homecoming king at Merritt Island High School last Friday, James Verpeale handed the crown and sash to classmate Parks Finney, who suffers from a brain injury incurred at birth. “All the senior guys got together, and we just kind of all agreed that Parks should get it — that we’d give it to Parks after we’d found out who would be king,” said Verpeale, a 17-year-old senior. WKMG.

Volusia: The Chiles Academy charter school is celebrating its 20th year of helping pregnant students complete their education and learn to care for their children. The school, which has 115 students now but historically has served about 250 on any given year, is on the second floor of the historic Bonner Elementary School in Daytona Beach. Principal Abby Ferguson said the school tried to reduce the stigma of teen pregnancy and look ahead. “My philosophy is that every parent deserves to experience both the joys and the stress of parenthood,” she said. “So I try to make sure that we’re always in a practice of asking how the joys of parenthood are affecting them, not only the burden.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Leon: School Superintendent Rocky Hanna and school board members all received pay raises last month based on an annual formula determined by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research that takes into account population changes. Hanna’s pay went up $10,200 to $159,988, and school board members will receive $44,092, a boost of $2,800. Tallahassee Democrat.

Citrus: District 5 school board incumbent Linda Powers is being challenged Nov. 8 by Joseph Faherty, a sheriff’s office employee who says his priority is school security. Powers, who was first elected in 2014, wants to increase the number of mental health providers in schools and expand partnerships with community providers. WUFT.

Lafayette: Two women with education backgrounds who are married to brothers are running for the District 3 school board seat in the general election Nov. 8 . Marion McCray is the incumbent, having held the seat for the past eight years. “I am asking that you make your choice based on qualifications, current leadership experiences and current ‘A’ school district status and for the past five years,” she said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Mary Anne McCray said she wants to help the “large and growing” home-school population, and make sure graduating students have multiple opportunities for work or higher education. WUFT.

Colleges and universities: The Walt Disney Co. will give $1 million over the next five years to Florida A&M University students studying journalism. The grant creates the Disney Storytellers Fund to “increase access to careers in storytelling and innovation for individuals from historically underrepresented or marginalized communities,” according to a press release. Orlando Sentinel. WTXL.

Lawsuit revised: A group of students, parents and teachers have filed a revised lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Parental Rights in Education law that forbids instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for K-3 students and restricts it to age-“age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in other grades. The suit alleges the law violates constitutional due-process, equal-protection and First Amendment rights, the federal Title IX law thar prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs. Its revisions also attempt to addresses concerns by the judge who dismissed the case in September because, in part, the plaintiffs didn’t establish a link between the “defendant’s action and the resulting harm.” News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Around the nation: All six conservative judges on the U.S. Supreme Court expressed doubts about the use of race as an admissions factor into colleges and universities, while the three liberal justices defended the Harvard and University of North Carolina affirmative action programs that are being challenged. A decision is not expected until the spring. Associated Press. NPR. Politico.

Opinions on schools: If you have school-aged children or grandchildren, I can only recommend that you investigate private tutoring services to remediate reading deficits. If you are waiting around hoping the public school system will clean this up, you are making a terrible mistake. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The Florida Education Association lost more than 4,500 members, a 3.3 percent drop, in just the 2020-2021 school year, as more and more teachers learn they have a right not to fund labor leaders’ lavish lifestyles. Ashley Varner, Real Clear Policy.

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