Suit against parents’ right law dismissed again, NIL bill signed, book issues and more

Court challenge tossed: A district judge has dismissed a revised lawsuit filed by students, parents and teachers against the Parental Rights in Education bill. The plaintiffs argued that the bill, which restricts classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor ruled this week that they had not “alleged sufficient facts” to show they had legal standing to challenge the law. “Plaintiffs have shown a strident disagreement with the new law, and they have alleged facts to show its very existence causes them deep hurt and disappointment,” he wrote. “But to invoke a federal court’s jurisdiction, they must allege more. Their failure to do so requires dismissal.” Winsor had dismissed an earlier version of the case in September but allowed the plaintiffs to revise and refile it. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics

In the Legislature: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill removing provisions of a law that prohibited colleges and universities and their representatives from helping student-athletes find deals paying them for use of their name, image and likeness. Colleges, coaches and agents say the new law make state schools more competitive in recruiting. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Gainesville Sun. WTXL. ESPN. The bill that would give the governor the power to appoint all the members of the Florida High School Athletic Association also would allow schools to make two minutes of “opening remarks,” including prayers, before sporting events. Home-schooled students could also try out for public school teams under the proposal. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Books about baseball greats Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente have been cleared to return to Duval County school libraries, Saint Leo University in Pasco County announced Thursday that is closing eight of its 14 education centers and eliminating 111 faculty and staff positions and six of its 23 sports teams, Orange County’s school board agrees to pay $375,000 to a developmentally disabled high school girl who was sexually assaulted in a gym class in 2017, an art exhibit at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota celebrating diversity has been canceled by school officials who thought three pieces of art in it “may have been found offensive and not embraced,” and Escambia County school support employees reach a contract agreement with the district. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: A developmentally disabled girl who was sexually assaulted by another student during a gym class at Apopka High School in 2017 will receive $375,000 to settle her guardian’s lawsuit against the district. The suit alleged that the district was aware that the suspect was a known risk for such an assault, and didn’t do enough to protect her. WFTV.

Duval: Books about baseball greats Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente that had been removed from school library shelves for months as they waited to be reviewed for content have finally been approved. Both books describe the racism each of the players had to overcome to play in the major leagues. “A certified media specialist has reviewed these books and approved them,” said district spokesperson Tracy Pierce. Florida Phoenix.

Polk: District officials are asking members of the community to vote online for one of the names proposed for an elementary school that’s expected to open in August. Voting is open through Feb. 20, and the winning name will go to the school board for its consideration. Name options are Sensabaugh Elementary, South Pointe Elementary, Osprey Elementary and Osprey Landing Elementary. Lakeland Ledger.

Marion: A janitor at Ocala Springs Elementary School has been arrested and accused of battery against a student. Deputies said Luis Vallellanes, 52, was tickling a student during lunch in the cafeteria and then grabbed him, pulled him off a bench and held him inappropriately. WCJB. WGFL.

Escambia: The school district and the union representing school support staff have reached a tentative contract agreement that provides all employees with raises of at least $1.21 an hour and one-time bonuses of $1,000. Union members and the school board still have to approve the deal. Pensacola News Journal. K-12 students are now eligible for a pass that will allow them to ride county buses for free for the rest of the school year. Applications for the passes must be completed by a parent or legal guardian. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: School board members agreed this week to join other U.S. school districts in suing social media sites Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube. The districts contend that the social media sites exploit children and can make them mentally ill. They’re seeking money to compensate schools for the resources they use to deal with the issues caused by social media addiction. Panama City News Herald.

Charlotte: Some Charlotte High School students and their parents are urging the district to change the venue for graduation. It’s scheduled May 16 at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, which holds 1,800 people. But some want it held at a larger venue, such as the school stadium, CoolToday Park in North Port or the Lee Civic Center. School officials and board members said all options had been considered, and the center is the best option. Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: The school district’s Internet fiber line was cut Thursday morning in Hudson, knocking out access to all county schools. District spokeswoman Lindsay Blair said service should be restored sometime today. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: Saint Leo University in Pasco County announced Thursday that is closing eight of its 14 education centers, eliminating 111 faculty and staff positions, ending three degree programs and some courses, and discontinuing six of its 23 sports teams. Tampa Bay Times. An art exhibit at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota celebrating diversity has been canceled by school officials after their request to remove works with the words “diversity,” “inclusion,” “justice” and “equality” was rejected by the artists. School officials said they made the request, in part, because they thought three pieces of art “may have been found offensive and not embraced.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gov. DeSantis is defending his administration’s flip on diversity, equity and inclusion in the past few years, saying he didn’t understand what DEI was. “I didn’t know what DEI was a couple of years ago as this had taken hold. I mean, it sounds innocuous, right? I thought maybe diversity of ideas, maybe actually have more than one viewpoint,” he said. “Well, that’s not what it is. What it is, is trying to enforce a political agenda and a political orthodoxy under the auspices of administration. And that is something that is not in the best interests of the state.” Florida Politics. A former assistant volleyball coach at Southeastern University in Lakeland is suing the school, claiming she was sexually harassed and discriminated against after complaining that a former trainer molested her. The trainer was fired, but in her suit the coach claims she also was “constructively terminated.” Lakeland Ledger.

Choice group divide: The schism that erupted last week between supporters of school choice centers around the objectives of the squabbling groups. The Florida Citizens Alliance seems to be advocating for using culture wars to advance choice objectives, while Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that helps administer the state scholarship program and hosts this blog, has cast the argument for choice as a civil rights issue that benefits low-income students with the most needs and fewest means to meet them. Tuesday, the Senate version of the expanded choice bill that would make all K-12 students eligible for state scholarship programs gets its first committee hearing. The House version is H.B. 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Disciplining school guardians: About 100 school guardians in Florida have been disciplined or fired a gun outside of training since the program was initiated after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has refused to release records on those incidents, calling them “confidential” and “exempt” from public disclosure. WFTS.

Around the nation: Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Jared Moskowitz, U.S. House representatives from south Florida, are asking Congress to re-authorize and expand the Eagle Act, which gives the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center the authority to conduct additional research and training to prevent shootings in schools. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to decide this month whether to close several half-empty schools and reassign thousands of students to make better use of existing facilities. This is a modest, necessary and overdue step that could improve academics and serve taxpayers alike. Tampa Bay Times. Far from devastating public schools, school choice uplifts communities and students, particularly when lawmakers are careful to consider what it will take to make school choice work in rural communities by easing restrictions on charter schools, ensuring sufficient funding for rural public schools, and giving school districts the freedom to design systems that work best for their students. Zoe Forest, Independent Women’s Forum. Legislating on behalf of children deserves our best efforts to hold all education alternatives, including home schools, accountable to the child. Jan Bennitt, Tallahassee Democrat. At the heart of every banned book is a perspective someone doesn’t want you to read in case you start to share it or — more troublingly still — in case you see that even if you don’t share it, it’s valid. A.J. Hartley, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff