Universities imposing bans on TikTok and other social media, school board term limits and more

Universities ban TikTok: Universities around the state announced Wednesday that they have banned TikTok and other social media platforms tied to foreign interests from WiFi networks and university-owned devices. Also off-limits at the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of South Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida A&M University, the University of West Florida, University of North Florida and New College of Florida are Tencent QQ, WeChat, VKontakte, Kaspersky and Fizz. Last week, the Florida Board of Governors authorized Chancellor Ray Rodrigues to block the apps. “Each university is working to implement,” Rodrigues said. “Some like FSU and UF had started down this road before the BOG meeting, so they were able to act immediately. Others are starting from scratch but working for immediate implementation.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Florida Politics. Tallahassee Democrat. Pensacola News Journal. Independent Florida Alligator. WTSP. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. USA Today Florida Network. WJAX.

School board term limits: The bill limiting school board and county commission members to eight years in office was approved Wednesday by the Senate Community Affairs Committee. House members approved their version of the bill March 17, but it would affect only school board members. “It’s very popular with the voters,” said state Sen. Blaise Ingolgia, R-Spring Hill, the bill sponsor. “You have to impose term limits on politicians because they won’t impose them on themselves.” Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: Six New College trustees appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to remake the small Sarasota liberal arts school into a more conservative “classical” campus were approved Wednesday by the Senate Postsecondary Education Committee, setting up the final vote before the full Senate. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. A proposal that would restrict the way operators of websites and online applications used in schools can collect and use students’ data won the approval of a Senate committee on Wednesday, and now will be considered by all senators. News Service of Florida. Sixty percent of Floridians oppose the new law that offers state vouchers to every K-12 student and only 34 percent support it, according to a new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Seminole’s school board approves a contract agreement between teachers and the district that will give most teachers raises of between $2,000 and $2,400, Collier school board members select four finalists for the superintendent’s job, Clay school board members will vote today on a policy that would require students to use bathrooms that align with their gender at birth, Pinellas school leaders are warned that they can’t ignore a federal court order requiring diverse and culturally relevant lessons while trying to comply with state law governing the ways race can be discussed in classrooms, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom has words of encouragement for New College students and staff during a visit Wednesday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: District officials are asking the school board Tuesday to fire a teacher at Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale who was arrested in August and accused of beating his dog to death. Pembroke Pines police said Daniel Gray, 29, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty and improperly disposing of a dead animal. Gray, who teaches students with behavioral issues, said he will contest the the firing if the board approves the recommendation. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange: The school district’s Pathways to Teaching program, a partnership with Rollins College, has been helping classroom aides to attend classes in the evening, graduate, earn a teaching certificate and get a job in the district. The program has 22 graduates who are now teaching for the district, with 26 more scheduled to graduate during the 2023-2024 school year. Program officials hope to add 30 more of the paraprofessionals into the class that begins in the fall. The University of Central Florida is starting a similar program with students from Orange and Marion counties. Orlando Sentinel. A psychology teacher at Dr. Phillips High School said he is being fired over what the district calls an “inappropriate” assignment about school violence. Jeffrey Keene, who said he was simply trying to teach his students how to stay safe, said the district won’t tell him what he did wrong. He said he will appeal his termination. WOFL.

Pinellas: An attorney for the Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students warned district officials Wednesday that they cannot ignore a federal court order requiring the district to include diverse lessons and provide culturally relevant curriculum and materials while trying to follow new state laws that restrict the ways race can be discussed in classrooms. Superintendent Kevin Hendrick, who attended a meeting with the group, said the district remains committed to teaching about black history and issues, despite bans it placed against Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye and a movie about 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrating New Orleans schools in 1960. “Over the course of the last eight months, these things (came) quickly,” Hendrick said. “We as a district have tried to react appropriately. We’ve made some mistakes. We ask for some grace and compassion.” Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Students at Cypress Lake High School were surprised to be funneled through metal detectors to get into school Wednesday. “In an effort to keep your student safe and to maintain a secure campus, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is randomly setting up a body scanner on school campuses,” principal Angela Roles told parents. “As part of the process, students or parents are not informed ahead of time about the random weapons check. Today, they were here at Cypress Lake High School.” On April 11, school board members will consider buying a $3.2 million mobile, concealed weapons detection system for use at schools throughout the district. WGCU.

Brevard: District officials anticipate having 400 teaching openings for the 2023-2024 school year, and school board chair Matt Susin said the district will search door-to-door for replacements because there are people in the community qualified to fill the jobs. “If you have a teacher certification, we’re coming for you,” he said. “We’re going to be hitting car loops, we’re going to be hitting everything.” WFTV.

Seminole: School board members have approved a contract agreement between the district and its teachers. The deal calls for most teachers to get raises of between $2,000 and $2,400 in their May 26 paycheck, and also awards teachers with 10 years of experience or more a bonus of at least $500 on April 28. Starting teacher pay is being raised to $48,500 a year. Orlando Sentinel.

Collier: Four finalists have been selected from a field of 45 applicants to become the new school superintendent. They are: Leslie Ricciardelli, the interim superintendent since Kamela Patton left in December; Marianne Simon, the elementary region superintendent for the Duval County School District; Charles Van Zant Jr., who was the superintendent in Clay County from 2012-2016; and Jerry Gibson, superintendent of the Galveston Independent School District in Texas. Candidates will be interviewed April 19. The field will be narrowed and a second round of interviews is scheduled April 26, and the board will select a superintendent May 9. Naples Daily News. WFTX.

Sarasota: Nancy Detert, a school board member from 1988-1992, former state legislator and a current member of the Sarasota County Commission, died Wednesday at the age of 78. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics. Charlotte Sun.

Clay: School board members are expected to vote today on a policy that would require all students to use bathrooms matching the gender they were assigned at birth. If it’s approved, the board will take a final vote at a public hearing June 1. District officials said the policy is already informally in place. WJXT.

Hernando: Alexandra Rastatter has been named the principal at Powell Middle School, as of July 1. She’s the current assistant principal at the school, and takes over for Tom Dye, who is transferring to Fox Chapel Middle this summer. Hernando County School District.

Colleges and universities: Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke to students and faculty at New College of Florida on Wednesday, offering empathy over Gov. DeSantis’ moves to turn the school into a conservative Hillsdale College of the South. “I want you to know you’re not alone. You matter, we care. This is the ‘why I’m here.’ I’m not your governor. But I’m a member of the larger community all bound together,” Newsome said. “So I want you to know you’re on the right side of history. You have something (DeSantis) will never have: moral authority.” A DeSantis spokesman said, “Stunts from political opponents don’t matter and have no effect.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Catholic school enrollment grew 3.5 percent last year, from 1.63 million to 1.69 million, the second straight year enrollment was up, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. In a Q&A, president and CEO of the NCEA Lincoln Snyder talks about the turnaround since the pandemic and the contributing factors. The Catholic World Report. A study of outcomes in five states suggests that students in four-day-a-week schools fall behind their peers in traditional five-day-a-week schools, and that the cumulative negative effect over eight years is equivalent to the learning losses student suffered during the pandemic. The study comes during a time of soaring growth in the number of four-day school weeks, and a bill being introduced in the Florida Legislature that would create a pilot program to test the concept. In 1999, only 257 U.S. schools had adopted the four-day week. By 2019 there were 1,600. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Florida is now known as the book-banning state. But that does not mean state leaders don’t want students to read. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. has launched a book of the month club with recommendations for all students in Florida, K-12 schools. The message: Read this, not that, especially if it’s about unvarnished U.S. history. Miami Herald. If every other nonprofit is allowed to run a public charter school, isn’t it anti-religious discrimination to excluse faith-based organizations? Andy Smarick, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff