Parental rights expansion backed, what was behind the removal of the period question, Broward schools closed again and more

Parental rights update: A bill that would expand the Parental Rights in Education law approved by the Legislature in 2022 was backed Thursday by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee and now goes before the full Senate next week. S.B. 1320 would broaden the state’s prohibition on teaching about sexual identity and gender orientation from grades K-3 to preK-8, and forbid school employees from asking students for preferred pronouns and sharing their pronouns with students if they don’t correspond to their birth gender. It also would require books challenged for being pornographic or harmful to minors be quarantined until the challenge is resolved, and give the Florida Department of Education instead of local school boards the authority to approve all materials for sex education classes. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

The menstruation question: Why did leaders of the Florida High School Athletic Association suddenly remove questions about menstruation from student-athlete application forms that they previously had insisted would remain? The answers could be found in e-mail records of FHSAA executive director Craig Damon. They show that a key sponsor, Sprouts Farmers Market, was threatening in early February to pull a $35,000 sponsorship of the FHSAA’s annual state championships in several sports “because of this menstrual cycle issue.” On Feb. 4, Damon traded e-mails and phone calls with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ deputy chief of staff Alex Kelly. On Feb. 9, the FHSAA board scrapped the menstruation questions at Damon’s request. Damon and Kelly declined to comment about the process. Palm Beach Post.

Around the state: Broward County schools are closed again today because of widespread flooding caused by historic rainfall this week, a controversial rezoning plan won the approval of Broward school board members, Duval school board members have been put on notice that they could face several lawsuits after a high school teacher was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student, Escambia school board members say closing down Warrington Middle School is again an option after negotiations with a charter school company broke down, and a Hernando County teacher is again removed from a middle school after district officials said they received new information from the sheriff’s department about her alleged threats against students. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: District schools remain closed today after three days of record-setting rainfall caused severe flooding throughout the county. Officials said they have identified at least $2 million in damage, but still haven’t gained access to about 30 schools. A decision will be announced on Sunday if schools will reopen Monday. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. School board members have approved a contentious school rezoning plan that will move 351 Coral Springs students from the A-rated Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to C-rated Coral Glades High. District officials backed the rezoning by calling it an overcrowding and safety issue, but Coral Springs officials believe city students are being unfairly targeted and have threatened to end fire-rescue service for Parkland, the city where Marjory Stoneman is located. Sun-Sentinel.

Duval: A school district attorney warned school board members this week that they can expect lawsuits to be filed by the families of students who may have been sexually involved with a former teacher from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Two attorneys put the district on notice that lawsuits could be filed, a move state law requires at least six months in advance to government agencies before suits can be filed. WTLV. Jacksonville Today. A district school bus caught fire Thursday near the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, sending flames and smoke billowing into the air. All the children on the bus were evacuated safely. WJXT.

Polk: A refurbished Rochelle School of the Arts auditorium was unveiled this month. Upgrades include new seating with greater accessibility for those with disabilities, fresh paint and carpeting, and upgraded fiber optic connectivity. The $574,000 cost of the project was paid from the district’s extra half-cent sales tax revenues that voters renewed in 2018. Lakeland Now.

Pinellas: Two former district teachers who oppose book bans tried to make a point by challenging the presence of the Bible in school libraries. Adam Graham and Brian Hawley said it is the “ideology of an ancient cult” and is replete with examples of “sexism, sex, violence, genocide, slavery, rape and bestiality.” The district shot down the challenge. “The Bible is explicitly authorized by Florida law as an appropriate instructional resource in public schools,” said Pinellas library media program coordinator Bronwyn Slack, making it “not subject to objections.” Graham and Hawley have had no luck in their request that the district reconsider. Tampa Bay Times.

Sarasota: Applications for the school superintendent’s job are being accepted and will be taken until May 18, according to a representative from the school board. Finalists will be chosen by mid-June and interviewed in July, with the board making its final choice by the end of July or early August. Four town hall meetings will be held this month and next so the public can tell board members and the search firm what qualities they want to see in a new leader. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: School board members said closing Warrington Middle School is again under consideration after negotiations with a charter school company to take over the school broke down. Board member Paul Fetsko questions whether Charter Schools USA is negotiating in good faith with demands that he and other consider unreasonable, such as a 15-year contract with an annual lease payment of $1, and a plan to expand the school to a K-12. The board discussion continues today. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: School board members have unanimously approved a new review process for books and instructional materials that have been challenged by the public. The new process aligns with state law in training for media personnel and including parents in the process of reviewing and approving books. To date, 383 books have been pulled from school library shelves. Clay Today

Alachua, Marion: Seven central Florida students have been named Sunshine State Scholars for being their schools’ top junior in STEM subjects. They will meet this weekend in Orlando with others selected from around the state to talk with state leaders, attend workshops, and meet representatives from colleges and universities. Abigail Dagins and Melissa Li are the choices from Alachua County, while Marion County representatives are Jullian Hollis, Olivia Bittinger, Devi Sharma, Rishit Shaquib and Caleb Lombardo. WCJB.

Hernando: A report released earlier this week by the sheriff’s office about a Fox Chapel Middle School teacher who allegedly threatened students contained information that “conflicted” with what the school district thought had been established, Superintendent John Stratton said Thursday, and the district will reopen the investigation. Parents called for the teacher to be fired, and some withdrew their children from the school when she was returned to the classroom. Stratton said the teacher has again been removed from having contact with students, and that mental health experts will get involved. WTVT. Hernando Sun.

Flagler: Matanzas High School has opened its new marketing lab, complete with a waiting room, conference room, specialized office space, overhead screens, and a collaborative brainstorming room. It’s the newest addition to the school’s marketing and finance program, which gives students experience in creating products, pitching their marketability,  developing advertising campaigns and selling the products. Flagler Live.

Putnam: Four students at Jenkins Elementary School in Interlachen became ill Thursday after apparently eating CBD or THC gummies. At least one of the children exhibited signs of an overdose, detectives said. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. WCJB.

Walton: The Northwest Florida State College and Seaside School Inc. partnership is expanding to add three buildings on the college’s south Walton campus. That will allow juniors and seniors who currently have to drive to Niceville for dual-enrollment classes to stay in Walton County. “One of the pain points we’re trying to address is that’s a lot of travel time for 16- and 17-year-olds,” said Joy Robbins, director of strategic development of Seaside School Inc. “So we would love to offer what they’re getting in Niceville here in Walton County.” WJHG.

Monroe: School board members received an update this week on the proposed renovations to Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium and Rex Weech Field at Key West High School, and are expected to vote April 25 on a guaranteed maximum price of $20 million. The work would include new football bleachers, resodding of the football and baseball fields, a home locker room, a multipurpose/visitor locker room, football concession area and restrooms, constructing a baseball press box and creating a portable baseball concession such as a food truck. Once the project gets the go-ahead, it could be substantially completed by January. Key West Citizen.

Records request fee: A news organization that wanted to view state complaints against private schools that accept state vouchers from the past three years filed an official request for records Jan. 24 with the Florida Department of Education. On Feb. 15 it got a reply from the DOE that it could provide copies of complaints — for a fee of $10,414.70. Orlando Sentinel officials said they consider the fee exorbitant, out-of-line with what was charged in past years and an attempt to block access to public records on a topic of public interest. “The government isn’t supposed to be turning public records into a profit center for their agencies, and that seems to be what has developed in the last few years,” said Julie Anderson, editor-in-chief of the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun-Sentinel in south Florida. “Either that, or they don’t want to fulfill the request.” Michael Barfield, director of public access initiatives for the Florida Center Government Accountability, said he’s seen “a huge explosion and increase in fees” in the past two years. “It’s accurate to say that in the digital era, where everything is computerized, accessing public records has become more expensive than it was during the era when everything was on a typewriter and in filing cabinets.” Orlando Sentinel.

Around the nation: A settlement that canceled $6 billion in loan debt for 200,000 students can proceed after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a request to block it. Three companies asked the court to intervene to prevent what they called “reputational harm” if the settlement proceeded. NPR.

Opinions on schools: It’s so disappointing that the Florida Legislature is attempting to ban majors such as women’s studies and history and Africana studies. It will do a tremendous disservice to the students who attend Florida’s universities and to the residents who will miss out on the talents of job candidates. Alex Southard, Tampa Bay Times. The damage that Ron DeSantis and his satraps in the state Legislature are doing is going to take at least a decade for our colleges and universities to recover from. Charles B. Dew, Tampa Bay Times.