Board bans teaching of gender identity, sexuality through 12th grade, partisan school board elections, New College tenure memo and more

Parents’ rights expanded: Restrictions on classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity have been expanded from grades K-3 through the 12th grade under a rule approved Wednesday by Florida’s Board of Education. The new rule states that teachers in grade 4-12 “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction…on sexual orientation or gender identity” unless the instruction is required by state standards or is “part of a reproductive health course” that a student’s parent can choose for them to opt out of. The rule, which goes beyond bills now being considered by legislators, takes effect in a month, and teachers who violate it may have their licenses suspended or revoked. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. Pensacola News Journal. WFSU. Reuters. Fox News. Axios. Education Week.

School board elections: Florida voters will decide in November 2024 if they want school board candidates to run with party labels in elections starting in 2026. Senators voted Wednesday to put the constitutional amendment before voters. Sixty percent will have to approve it to change the state constitution. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Another bill affecting school board elections is now headed to the Senate floor. S.B. 444 would allow board candidates to live outside the district they want to represent until they assume office instead of when they qualify for the ballot. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: Members of the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a bill that requires students and others to use bathrooms in schools and elsewhere that align with their gender at birth. “This bill simply codifies what has been part of our culture and tradition since 1887, what we all learned in kindergarten,” said state Rep. Rachel Plakon, R-Lake Mary. “That boys use the boys’ room, and girls use the girls’ room.” The Senate version of the bill is awaiting a committee vote. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Is year-round schooling, which is being considered as a pilot program in Florida, a good idea? Supporters point to the continuity of learning and the benefit for low-income parents in avoiding child-care costs. Critics say children need time off for family vacations and other activities, and wonder where the necessary money will come from. Sun-Sentinel.

Around the state: New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran urged college trustees in a memo to deny or defer tenure to five faculty members at their April 26 meeting, the state is accusing the Duval school district of failing to report sexual misconduct allegations against a music teacher at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said he’s frustrated by Escambia school board’s delay in handing over a middle school to a charter school company, and a St. Lucie County administrator has been chosen as the state’s assistant principal of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A former teacher who was charged but acquitted of child sex abuse charges should get his job back, an administrative law judge has recommended. Wyman Gresham was teaching at Lauderhill 6-12 in 2017 when three girls accused him of touching them inappropriately. He was fired in 2019, but the judge ruled recently that the accusations were not credible. The school board will make the final decision whether to rehire Gresham. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A student at Congress Community Middle School in Boynton Beach was arrested Tuesday and accused of having a loaded gun on campus. Another student saw the gun and reported it, and it was confiscated without incident. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC.

Duval: Duval school officials failed to notify the state’s Office of Safe Schools about all the sexual harassment allegations cited in the termination notice given to a Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher, the state is alleging. Music teacher Jeffrey Clayton was arrested and charged with offenses against students by authority figures, indecent lewd or lascivious touching of certain minors and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. Safe Schools vice chancellor Scott Strauss said a letter to the district that while school leaders cited “substantial earlier incidents” in their termination of Clayton, those earlier incidents didn’t appear to be filed in the state’s School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting system, as required by state law. Duval spokesman Tracy Pierce said, “We are looking into the matter, and we will respond within the timeline requested.” WJXT. WTLV.

Pasco: In a 3-2 vote this week, school board members gave their approval to the construction of a cell tower on the Starkey Ranch K-8 School campus in Odessa. Parents had objected over safety concerns, but the board majority pointed to the need for stable communications with law enforcement, families and others during emergencies. The proposal now goes to the county commission, since it jointly owns the land with the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: All county schools will have a weapon detection system in place sometime during the 2023-2024 academic year after the school board recently approved the purchase of the OpenGate system. District officials said the system, which screens backpacks, purses, bags and other contraband items, will be installed in phases. WFTX. WINK.

Brevard: A district audit committee identified recurring discipline problems in the first semester of the school year that included students who were out of assigned areas, willfully disobeying, tardy to class, disrupting class and also being physically aggressive. Forty percent of those problems were reported in high schools, according to the report, which also concluded that employees are incorrectly reporting and tracking those problems. At a meeting Wednesday, school board members discussed the idea of hiring an assistant superintendent of discipline with direct supervision for behavior, but will probably wait until a new superintendent is hired. WKMG. Catherine McNutt, the principal at Hoover Middle School in Indialantic, has been chosen to become the founding principal for a middle school currently under construction in the central part of the county. She begins her new job July 1, and the school is on schedule to open in August 2024. Space Coast Daily.

Sarasota: A survey of more than 1,100 district teachers take by their union indicates that two-thirds are reluctant to file a complaint or speak up, for fear of retribution, and 83 percent said they don’t feel supported by a majority of school board members. The survey indicates teachers do have positive opinions about their principals: 67 percent said their principals created a positive work environment, 85 percent said they feel supported by them, and 90 percent believed principals are dedicated to improving student achievement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Lucie: District officials have announced that Angela Patton, the assistant principal at Mariposa Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, has been chosen as the state’s assistant principal of the year by the Florida Board of Education. She was recognized for her leadership qualities and dedication to the district for the past eight years, according to the board. WQCS.

Escambia: Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said he is frustrated by the delay in turning Warrington Middle School over to a charter school company. School board members attribute the delay to contract demands made by Charter Schools USA, including turning the school into a K-12 instead of a K-8 as previously discussed. Diaz wants to see the matter wrapped up soon. “This school has been failing students for more than a decade, and it’s inexcusable that we’re still having adult problem conversations and not focusing on students,” he said. WUWF. School board member Patty Hightower will continue to represent the board on the Escambia Children’s Trust through the end of her term in November after a vote by her colleagues this week. New board member David Williams had expressed an interest in the appointment, then backed off because he said he was too busy completing his dissertation, but now is saying he’d like to get the position in November. The trust’s goal is to maximize resources for the children, and monitor to make sure the programs they fund are successful. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: District officials and the Governors Charter Academy charter school said they are working together to bring the school into compliance with the contract it has with the district. Superintendent Rocky Hanna notified the school last week that it had missing attendance and vaccine records, failed to give out grades to certain students in past quarters, and more. WCTV. Chiles High School head football coach Kevin Pettis has been placed on paid administrative while an outside counsel investigates allegations of possible athletic violations, according school district officials. According to a report, Pettis asked one of his players to deliberately injure another player during a game last fall, and there are reports that some players who transferred to Chiles last fall to play football used fraudulent documentation. Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee Reports. WCTV. WTXL.

Bay: A 17-year-old student at Rutherford High School in Panama City was arrested Wednesday and accused of having a gun on campus. Deputies said the boy had posted a photo of himself with the gun on social media with a threat directed at another student. “(He) stated the post was made in reference to another male student at Rutherford that (the student) believed was speaking to his ex-girlfriend,” according to deputies. Panama City News Herald.

Indian River: A junior at Sebastian River High School was arrested Wednesday and accused of having an unloaded gun at school. Acting on a tip, school resource officers found the gun during a search of the student’s backpack. TCPalm.

Flagler: An attempt by school board members Will Furry and Christy Chong to censure colleague Cheryl Massaro about comments she’d made on social media about three other board members failed by a 3-2 vote this week. Massaro accused Furry, Chong and colleague Sally Hunt of not having “Flagler schools, all students, their families and communities’ best interest as their priority.” Furry called the statement “unacceptable and divisive and not true,” but couldn’t convince Hunt to join him and Chong to vote for Massaro’s censure. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran urged college trustees in a memo to deny or defer tenure to five faculty members at their April 26 meeting. Corcoran cited the “extraordinary circumstances” including “a renewed focus on ensuring the college is moving towards a more traditional liberal arts institution” and “current uncertainty of the needs of the divisions/units and college.” The five tenure applications had already been approved by all levels of the school’s academic administration. Tampa Bay Times.

Students on scholarship: The number of students receiving income-based scholarships from the state grew to 162,518 during the 2021-2022 school year, according to a new report from Step Up For Students, which helps administer the scholarship programs and hosts this blog. That’s up from 103,985 the year before, and from 34,561 in the 2010-2011 school year. reimaginED.

Around the nation: New polling suggests that black parents have become increasingly active in their children’s education since the pandemic and strongly support such school choice options as private school vouchers, education savings accounts, microschools, pods and tutoring. “I think the openness and interest in some of these different options is one data point showing that there’s pretty strong demand among (African American) families for different kinds of education options than what their kids might be accessing currently,” said Alex Spurrier, who works for the research and consulting group Bellwether Education Partners. The 74.

Opinions on schools: With its higher education bill, the Florida Senate is trying to have it both ways, using broad language to restrict academics while pretending the law is neutral enough to protect universities from financial and professional harm. Tampa Bay Times. Good job to everyone in Pinellas County who stood up, in this instance, in this small sliver of a state under intellectual attack to protest the banning of the Toni Morrison classic novel The Bluest Eye. It’s a win for literacy, a gold star in a battle bigger than one book. Celebrate with a sigh of relief, then get ready for the next round. Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff