Parental rights expansion, later school start times, school board elections changes, and more

Parental rights expansion: A bill expanding the Parental Rights in Education law passed last year was approved Friday in the House on a 77-35 vote. Among other things, the bill guides how teachers and students can use their pronouns in schools, restricts school lessons about sexual identity and gender orientation for all students in grades preK-8, and requires school libraries to remove books within five days if someone files a challenge to their content. The Senate’s version will next get a hearing before the Fiscal Committee. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics.

Later school start times: Members of the House voted 92-20 on Friday to approve the bill that would push back start times for middle and high schools, starting in 2026. Middle schools could open no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools not before 8:30 a.m. The Senate’s version of the bill must still get through two committees and the full House. The bills were prompted by studies showing better academic performance, less tardiness, fewer missed days of school and improved sleep for students who go to schools with later starting times. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: A proposal for a constitutional amendment that would make school board elections partisan affairs was overwhelmingly approved Friday by the House, 79-34. It has to be passed by the Senate, signed by the governor and then approved by 60 percent of voters in 2024 to take effect in 2026. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. School board candidates would have to live in the districts they want to represent only at the time they assume office under a bill approved Friday in the House by an 83-28 vote. The Senate’s version is awaiting approval from a second committee. Florida Politics. Other education bills approved by the House are ones regulating the use of cell phones, banning social media sites such as TikTok in schools, and requiring schools to teach students the dangers of social media. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Here’s a summary of the educational changes the Legislature proposes to make. Miami Herald. Florida Phoenix. School board members are worried how the state will pay for the recently enacted universal school choice bill approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the state: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three University of Florida professors challenging a UF policy that gave school administrators discretion over allowing faculty members to serve as expert witnesses in litigation, Pinellas school administrators are drawing criticism for their shifting stories on why they had an elementary school remove a movie about a 6-year-old black girl integrating a New Orleans school in 1960, Polk County’s plan to replace city police officers with deputies as school resource officer is raising concerns, and New College of Florida announced plans to start an intercollegiate athletics program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: The school district has terminated an agreement to sell the historic Hungerford Preparatory School property in Eatonville to a developer. Residents of the community protested the proposed sale, arguing that they wanted the community more involved in the development process. “This decision presents us with a new opportunity to collaborate with the Eatonville community to preserve and celebrate the town’s historic and cultural significance as the oldest incorporated black town in the U.S.,” district officials said in a statement. WKMG.

Duval: A third teacher has been removed from the classroom at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville. In mid-March, music teacher Jeffrey Clayton was arrested and accused of having a relationship with a female student, and he resigned March 28. Friday, district officials said two more teachers have been reassigned after allegations of impropriety. Neither has been arrested. Superintendent Diana Greene said the district would develop “an action plan addressing the student experience at DA,” and announce it in the next few weeks. WTLV. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: Some Lakeland officials said they are concerned about a school district plan to replace all city police school resource officers with sheriff’s deputies. The change was proposed after a closed-door meeting between school Superintendent Frederick Heid and Sheriff Grady Judd as part of annual update on school safety. “I believe the next step is to consolidate our SRO (school resource officer) program into one solidified command structure,” said Heid. “We will be meeting with each chief to discuss my recommendation, and address any questions or concerns that they may have.” The change would affect every city in the district that has its own officers in schools. Lakeland Now. School board members have approved a five-year contract extension for the Language and Literacy Academy for Learning preK-12 charter school that opened in 2018 in Winter Haven for disabled children. Heid had recommended a one-year contract, citing issues with the number of ESE certified teachers hired and when they were hired, specifics in the school’s budget and more information on the new location for the academy. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: District administrators have offered conflicting explanations why they banned a film about a 6-year-old black girl integrating a New Orleans school in 1960. At first, they said the film was pulled from North Shore Elementary School after a single parent complained that it would teach white people to hate black people. After the story attracted national attention, administrators then said the film was “paused,” not banned, and later amended that to say the school’s teachers could use it as long as they followed the required parental permission procedure. Superintendent Kevin Hendrick’s and his administration’s handling of the incident has drawn criticism from school board members. Tampa Bay Times. Creators of the movie about Ruby Bridges say it offers lesson on how children can see past the racial slurs and messages of hate to understand acceptance. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: School board members Matt Susin and Jennifer Jenkins are elaborating about the factors that led the board to suspend interim superintendent Robert Schiller last week. Both reported receiving repeated complaints from school staff about hostile and belittling treatment of them by Schiller. Susin said Schiller also may have tried to interfere with the search process for a permanent superintendent, and Jenkins said, “I was really concerned about our staff. Really, really, really concerned and I was scared that there would be retaliation. I promised them I wouldn’t be explicit with the things that they had shared with me.” Schiller has not commented. His wife said Friday that he was “under physicians’ care.” Florida Today.

Collier: A school bus driver has been arrested and accused of inappropriately touching a student on his bus. Deputies said Tomas Andres Cabrera, 57, is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation for allegedly touching and kissing a student’s left breast over her clothing. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Escambia: Kara Santorelli, an 18-year-old senior at Northview High School who died in a car crash March 17, was posthumously honored as prom queen Saturday night. Northview students also dedicated the prom to Santorelli, and had a mural painted on Pensacola’s Graffiti Bridge in her honor. WEAR.

Leon: The Tallahassee Classical School has hired a lawyer to fight what it calls a “false narrative” surrounding the recent resignation of its principal. Hope Carrasquilla was forced to resign shortly after a parent complained that an art lesson that included showing photos of Michelangelo’s nude David statue to 6th-graders was “pornographic.” School officials deny that Carrasquilla was told to resign or be fired solely for failing to notify parents about the lesson in advance, and said there were two other unrelated incidents of poor job performance in early March that led to the ultimatum. The resignation was reported worldwide, and led Hillsdale College to cut ties with the school. Tallahassee Reports.

Alachua: Westin Martin, an 8th-grader at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville, won the 2023 First Coast Spelling Bee in Jacksonville on Friday to qualify for the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., on May 28. The winning word was “desertification” in the 15th round. WJXT.

Monroe: School board members were told last week that the district’s general operating budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year is expected to jump from $136 million to $149.8 million even as enrollment is forecast to be unchanged. Raises in teacher salaries are expected to cost $4.4 million, said Beverly Anders, the district’s executive director of finance and performance. Negotiations with the teachers union begin April 24. The school board meets again May 16 to continue to work on the budget. Key West Citizen.

Colleges and universities: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three University of Florida professors challenging a UF policy that gave school administrators discretion over allowing faculty members to serve as expert witnesses in litigation. News Service of Florida. Sydney Gruters, a former congressional aide and wife of Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, will be paid $175,000 a year as director of the New College Foundation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. New College announced last week it had hired an athletic director and baseball coach to launch the school’s move into intercollegiate athletics. “We’re looking forward to building a culture that emphasizes academic and athletic excellence,” interim president Richard Corcoran said of the hiring of Mariano Jimenez, who had been the president of baseball operations and athletic director at Inspiration Academy in Bradenton. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. St. Petersburg College students who earn an associate’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher will be guaranteed admission and a minimum of $3,500 in scholarships to attend New College, school officials said Friday. Tampa Bay Times. More than 270 first-year University of Florida students are scrambling to find housing after the school changed plans last week and said opens spots in the new honors village will go to incoming freshmen because it’s the “best way to create community.” WCJB. Natlie Figgers has been appointed by Gov. DeSantis to the board of trustees at Florida A&M University. Figgers is a lawyer in Parkland and FAMU alumna. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: For setting the standard for empowering all families to choose the right learning environments for their children, Florida lawmakers deserve an A+. Lawmakers in other states would do well to follow the Sunshine State’s shining example. Jason Bedrick, reimaginED. Is it fine to have a vindictive MAGA ideologue as president of Florida Atlantic University? Fred Grimm, Sun-Sentinel. The Brevard County School Board is a mess. But its members can still get it right. They can stop getting “divided by social media posts and newspaper articles” if they just stop with their bad behavior and decisions. They can cast aside petty differences, political aspirations and put the children first. John A. Torres, Florida Today. It is time for school districts to limit students’ use of social media and smartphones in school in order to protect their mental and emotional health and academic performance. John Legg, Tampa Bay Times.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff