Rule would require challenged books list to be published annually, Bible challenged in Brevard, Polk school resource officers, and more

Challenged books list: The state Board of Education will consider a new rule at Wednesday’s meeting that would require the education commissioner to publish an annual list of library books and instructional materials that have been objected to by people around the state. Districts would have to file a form with the objections by June 30 every year, along with details such as the types of materials objected to and whether the objection is because they contain pornography, aren’t “suited to student needs and ability to comprehend the material,” or are inappropriate for a grade level. They would also have to report whether the objected to materials were “removed, discontinued or access limited.” News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Polk County is moving ahead with a plan to replace school resource officers from city agencies with deputies from the sheriff’s department, many school nurses in Palm Beach County said they will take massive cuts in pay when they are switched this summer to hourly pay, the Bible is among 296 Brevard school library books anonymously challenged this month, a Collier County social studies teacher will not be disciplined for putting together at “Confederate History Month” video and showing it to his class, a campaign to raise money to buy school uniforms for low-income Collier County elementary students collected more than double its target, and a pilot mentorship program called Dads on Duty is cutting discipline referrals at an Escambia high school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Central Florida: Officials in the Orange, Polk, Brevard, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Volusia, Marion, Flagler and Sumter school districts report what books have been removed from school libraries or restricted, and which ones are being challenged. WKMG.

Palm Beach: About 180 school nurses in the district will be switched to hourly pay starting July 30, and some of them say the change could cut their pay by an average of $8,000 to $10,000 a year. Health Care District of Palm Beach County officials said, “This change will allow better coordination and alignment between the public schools’ academic year and schedule and the nursing staff’s workdays. Also, this change will ensure fairness in compensation for all nursing staff across the health care district and is market competitive.” WPTV.

Polk: District officials are moving ahead with a plan to replace school resource officers from city police departments with deputies from the sheriff’s department. Starting in August, deputies will replace officers from the Lakeland, Lake Alfred, Bartow and Auburndale police departments. For the 2024-2025 school year, deputies will replace officers from the Lake Wales, Haines City and Winter Haven police departments. Superintendent Frederick Heid told school board members that he “found that all of the municipalities had a willingness to transition,” and that city managers agreed the change would ultimately benefit them “as far as filling their own vacancies.” He added that having a single agency involved would simplify the command structure. Lakeland Now.

Pinellas: A 9-year-old home-schooled St. Petersburg student is the state winner of the 15th annual Doodle for Google art contest for kids. Iman Haddouche-Miranda drew herself in a hijab mastering tennis and karate as a way to overcome the bullying that prompted her family’s decision to home-school her. “I feel like she grew into a different person” after taking up those activities, said her mother, Ellaine Miranda. “She went from revenge mode to ‘I love my community.’ ” The girl’s artwork is now entered in the national competition, with voting ending May 25. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Brevard: The Bible is among 296 books challenged last week by an anonymous person who said in a message to district officials that every book on the list violated state statutes. It’s the first time the Bible has been challenged in Brevard, though complaints were previously filed against it in Leon and Escambia. Both districts decided the Bible did not break state law, and it remains on school library shelves. Brevard schools with the books will review the materials, and the results of the review will be posted on the district website. Florida Today.

Collier: A social studies teacher at Manatee Middle School in Naples will not be disciplined for putting together at “Confederate History Month” video and showing it to his class April 12, district officials have announced. The district’s Employee Review Committee reviewed the video and public comments, and concluded, “After careful consideration and evaluation of the facts and evidence, the decision has been made that there is no just cause for discipline.” The teacher, Jonathan Papanikolaou, then filed a complaint with human resources, which was also dismissed. WBBH. The Collier Community Foundation has announced it has raised more than twice the money it set as a goal to buy school uniforms for 2,500 low-income county students for the next two school years. The goal for the Dressed to Discover campaign was $75,000, but $183,613 was raised. Twenty-three of the district’s 32 elementary schools have a uniform policy. Naples Daily News.

Marion: An East Marion Elementary School 4th-grader has received a citizenship award for stepping in to solve a problem adults couldn’t when a mechanical wheelchair lift on a school bus stopped working. While the adults tried to fix the lift, and a the mother of the 7-year-old student in the wheelchair worried about how her son was going to get to school, 10-year-old Cole Davis checked under the lift, found instructions that detailed how to work the lift manually, and got the 7-year-old to school. WOFL.

Sarasota: Keith Little, the assistant principal at Riverview High School, has been named the district’s new director of transportation. He starts his new job July 1. Charlotte Sun.

Escambia: A pilot mentorship program in its first semester at Pine Forest High School in Pensacola is reducing behavioral referrals, according to vice principal Bakari Franklin. Dads on Duty uses the “power of presence” every Friday to encourage students to make better decisions, and Franklin said there have been declines of at least 12 percent in referrals in every month since February. Franklin borrowed the idea from a program started in Louisiana in 2021, and would like to make it a daily presence. Pensacola News Journal.

Hernando: The extent to which partisan politics has been injected into local school board operations is on display in Hernando County. Meetings are now filled with discussions about book challenges, about a teacher who reportedly threatened a student and was removed from her middle school only after the state intervened, and petitions calling for the removal of the superintendent, the board majority and a board member who said she was put into the job by God. A former school board candidate, Pam Everett, said “it’s a madhouse right now.” She said she’s worried that politics will take priority over education needs. “It’s really a heated battle,” she said, “and what they’re doing is slowly they’re destroying it.” Tampa Bay Times.

Colleges and universities: Hundreds of New College of Florida students, family and friends celebrated graduation Thursday with an “alternative commencement” to the official ceremony today as a way of protesting the state’s conservative makeover of the school. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. Kenneth Jessell was formally sworn in Thursday as the sixth president of Florida International University in Miami. He became the interim president in January 2022, following Mark Rosenberg’s resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment, and was confirmed as president last November. WLRN. WFOR. Miami Herald.

Education bills signed: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed dozens of bills into laws late Wednesday, many of them education-related. Among them: S.B. 7026 on higher education funding, H.B. 19 on individual education plans, H.B. 389 on menstrual hygiene products in public schools, H.B. 443 on early learning programs, H.B. 633 on class size, S.B. 598 on higher education facilities financing, and S.B. 1272 on education grants. Less-noticed education items tucked into the state budget include $250,000 to provide $50 bonuses to International Baccalaureate teachers for each student they teach who received scores of “C” or higher on an IB theory of knowledge subject exam, $8 million for the Florida State University Institute for Politics to create an online history program adhering to state standards, and $150,000 for FSU to create the Center for Rare Earths, Critical Minerals, and Industrial Byproducts within the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Office of the Governor. News Service of Florida.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos about some of them. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Palm Beach Post. Citrus County Chronicle. Charlotte Sun. Palm Beach Post. Charlotte Sun.

About that top ranking: Gov. DeSantis and other Florida politicians touted the state’s recent ranking as the No. 1 state in the nation in the overall annual education rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, and also No. 1 in higher education. “The Florida education model stands alone as a shining example for all other states to follow,” said state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. But do the rankings really mean Florida students are getting the best education? Critics are dubious. Akil Bello, director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which advocates against the misuse of standardized testing, said, “You got a positive Yelp review. That’s, in essence, what you just got.” He calls the rankings “terrible and wrong. … They are using subjective analysis, filtering it through numbers and pretending it’s objective. That conveys to parents to families to shoppers, essentially, false information. They’re using metrics that no one would actually want to measure if you were looking at education.” WFTS.

Around the nation: Early education enrollment was up 13 percent in the 2021-2022 U.S. school year compared to the year before, but is still 8 percent short of the 2019-2020 enrollment, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Since the NIEER’s first report in 2001, preschool enrollment has more than doubled, to more than 1.5 million children. The 74. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: A healthy choice movement should be a “both/and” coalition. This, for me, is perhaps the most telling takeaway from the pandemic. It turns out that Americans can like their public schools and still wants lots of other options, and opportunities to do what’s right for their child and situation. And for millions of families buffeted by closures, mediocre remote instruction, short-staffed schools, and culture clashes, that seems like an eminently reasonable stance. Frederick M. Hess, Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Lindsay Durtschi, a member of the P.T.A. in bright-red Escambia County, Fla., knows that coming out as a public face in a legal fight against book banning could make her life difficult, but she’s made peace with it. Michelle Goldberg, New York Times.

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BY NextSteps staff