Feds’ transgender rule sets up showdown with state, session at halftime, phonics focus and more

Transgender athletes: States and school districts would be prohibited from automatically banning all transgender students’ participation on athletic teams aligning with their gender identities under a proposed federal Title IX regulation released Thursday. “Such bans fail to account for differences among students across grade and education levels,” said the Education Department. “They also fail to account for different levels of competition — including no-cut teams that let all students participate — and different types of sports.” Instead, states and districts would be issued criteria they may consider when determining eligibility, and could ban transgender athletes if they do so to ensure fairness. Florida is among the states that bars transgender girls and women from participating in female scholastic sports. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. called the federal rule an “overreach,” and said Florida will “never allow boys to play in girls’ sports.” Miami HeraldEducation Week. K-12 Dive. Associated Press. The 74. Chalkbeat. Florida Phoenix.

In the Legislature: Wednesday marked the halfway point in this year’s legislative session. One of the highest-profile bills, which will make universal school choice available to every K-12 student, has already been passed by both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but several others are pending, including the state budget. The Senate and House are about $700 million apart in spending plans and will have to agree on how to fund the universal choice law and figure the state formula for funding schools, but are in agreement on keeping college tuition the same and on funding for Bright Futures Scholarships. The Joint Budget Conference Committees will be meeting after Easter to reconcile the differences. News Service in Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Policy Institute. A bill requiring students to be taught reading by using phonics instead of three-cueing, which encourages students to use visuals, meaning and syntax to figure out words, has passed the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. The repudiation of three-cueing in favor of phonics is part of a national movement. But the science behind both methods is unsettled, and three-cueing supporters said there’s no reason it has to be one or the other. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: In a speech Thursday at Hillsdale College in Michigan, Gov. DeSantis claimed that “very few people” had ever heard of New College and that it was “performing poorly,” one of the books being recommended by the state this month was the basis for a graphic novel that was temporarily banned in Pinellas County, Duval school officials mistakenly release results of the school choice lottery, Citrus school board members will consider revising the process for selecting the district’s instructional materials, and Florida State University Panama City will open the FSU Collegiate School on campus in August. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: A Palm Beach Lakes High School student was arrested Thursday and accused of having a loaded handgun on campus. Principal David Alfonso said the gun wasn’t used in a threatening way, but that the student faces expulsion. WPTV.

Duval: Results of the district’s annual school choice lottery were released by mistake Monday before a final audit was completed. Hundreds of families may have received inaccurate information, district officials said. The correct information will be sent to families by Apil 15, they said. WJXT.

Osceola: A coach at Celebration High School was arrested Thursday and accused of sexual misconduct by several students. Deputies said Samuel Figueroa, 43, asked several girls between the ages of 15 and 18 to send him sexually explicit photos, made vulgar remarks and touched them inappropriately. He coached baseball and girls basketball before resigning last week, a few weeks after the investigation began. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH.

Santa Rosa: The 13-year-old son of a former state data scientist who was fired after accusing the state of deliberately falsifying pandemic statistics has been arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up Holley Navarre Middle School. Rebekah Jones said her son was arrested on the order of Gov. DeSantis three weeks after she filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state. “My family is not safe,” Jones tweeted on Wednesday. “My son has been taken on the gov’s orders, and I’ve had to send my husband and daughter out of state for their safety. THIS is the reality of living in DeSantis’ Florida. There is no freedom here. Only retaliatory rule by a fascist who wishes to be king.” Pensacola News Journal. Miami Herald. District middle schools are adding boys and girls track, cross country and basketball in the fall. “These sports were chosen to implement first due to the availability of facilities,” district officials said. WEAR.

Bay: Florida State University Panama City will open the FSU Collegiate School on campus in August. The charter school will begin with 125 9th-graders, with students from military families given priority, and add a class in each of the subsequent years. The school will be “a research laboratory, charter school associated with the College of Education at Florida State,” said Elizabeth Crowe, the assistant dean of administrative affairs. FSU will open the school with a $7.6 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast, which distributes money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. WMBB. Verma Hines, an employee at the Oscar Patterson Academy and the district’s support employee of the year, is one of five finalists for the same honor in the state. WMBB.

Hernando: The school district said it will continue to provide food service to the private school Each 1 Reach 1 even though the school is behind payments. Board member Mark Johnson suggested continuing service through the school year but terminating the contract if the school isn’t current in its payments by July 1. Hernando Sun.

Indian River: The graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary was removed from the Vero Beach High School library this week due to a scene of Frank walking among nude female statues. Jennifer Pippin, chair of the county Moms for Liberty chapter, challenged the book last month because that scene is “sexually explicit” and “not a true adaptation of the Holocaust.” TCPalm. WPTV.

Citrus: School board members are expected to vote Tuesday to adopt a revised process for selecting the district’s instructional materials. Materials would have to be available for public review at least 20 days before the school board could consider them. Those who object to the materials must do so in writing within 30 days of their adoption. A complaint would prompt another public hearing in which the school board would make a final decision. Citrus County Chronicle.

Wakulla: Three Medart Elementary School students were taken to a hospital for observation after their school bus was involved in an accident Thursday in Sopchoppy. There were 34 students on the bus when it crashed into three vehicles. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: Gov. DeSantis, speaking at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan Thursday, praised the makeover at New College of Florida and said it would soon “be like a little Hillsdale maybe down in Florida. Can you imagine how good that would be?” He added, “I don’t think anyone had even heard of it. Very few people had heard of it. It was performing very poorly.” Florida Politics. Tallahassee Community College said it is keeping its tuition rates unchanged for the 11th straight year, even though a recent state financial audit recommended an increase. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Gulf Coast University has joined other state schools in banning TikTok and other social media platforms tied to foreign interests from WiFi networks and university-owned devices. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK.

State’s books of the month: A movie version of one of the books Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. is recommending for students to read this month was recently banned from a Pinellas County elementary school before being cleared after a review. A parent complained that the movie version of I Am Ruby Bridges, which told the story of a 6-year-old black girl’s experiences integrating a New Orleans school in 1960, would teach white children to hate black children. Florida Department of Education. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: If the Republican-led House and Senate get their way, by the time they are done local education will be a mere arm of state leaders who act like the ideological patrol of Florida’s K-12 system. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff