Broward is last district to open today, Brevard school’s football season suspended over hazing, A/C issues, black history and more

Around the state: Broward become the final state school district to open today, a Brevard high school’s football program and coach have been suspended until further notice after a video of a hazing incident was posted on social media, air-conditioning issues continue in several districts, black community leaders urge Palm Beach school officials to “teach facts, not fiction” about black history, Volusia teachers and the district reach a contract agreement, some Orange County parents are calling for changes in the district’s cell phone policy after they couldn’t reach their children during an incident at a middle school, and the only fulltime gender studies professor at New College of Florida has resigned after trustees decided to end the program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Lucia Baez-Geller announced last week that she will not seek re-election to her District 3 school board seat in 2024. She cited personal reasons for the decision, among them her 18-month old daughter. “For our family it was a joint decision that we’re making to make sure that I could be present in whichever way is needed for myself and for my family,” she said. Scott Galcin, executive director of the LGBTQ advocary group Safe Schools South Florida, said her departure “will be a real loss. She’s been a real champion for LGBTQ youth. And in the midst of such dark times, she’s been a beacon of light, showing kids they do have allies in our school system.” WLRN. An American Heritage School football player had a seizure and collapsed during Friday’s game against Booker T. Washington High School at Miami-Dade College. He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he’s in stable condition in the intensive care unit, said his godmother. WTVJ.

Broward: Today is the first day of classes at 238 schools for the district’s 260,000 students and 14,000 teachers. Broward is the last public school district in the state to open. About 160 teaching jobs are still open, but deputy superintendent Valerie Wanza said certified teachers will be in every classroom this morning. WPLG. WTVJ. The school district’s 101-page LGBTQ+ support guide of a year ago has shrunk to 18 pages this year because of new state laws restricting what districts can do to help students. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange, central Florida: Some Orange County parents who couldn’t reached their children during a recent report of a weapon at Hunters Creek Middle School because of a new district policy that bans the use of phones during classes are calling for the policy to be amended. School officials said the incident wasn’t a true emergency because it was a false report, and that students will be permitted to use their phones during a real emergency. WOFL. The number of students seeking mental health services at Central Florida Behavioral Hospital is up 47 percent this month compared to August 2022, said regional director Windy McCarty. She said McCarty said social media, bullying, financial uncertainty and new school policies are straining students. WFTV.

Palm Beach: Black community leaders are urging school officials to commit to “teaching facts, not fiction” about black history in schools. New state standards included a “benchmark clarification” that reads, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Superintendent Mike Burke called this standard “offensive” and said black history will continue to be taught using longstanding state standards and state law. “The state has not yet rolled out those new standards, and even when they do, we’re going to be very careful,” he said. “We have always valued teaching history accurately, and we want to maintain our integrity.” Palm Beach Post. Recent changes in state law have resulted in the district shrinking its LGBTQ+ support guide from 105 pages last year to 11 this year. The new guide mostly details what the district cannot do because of the laws. Sun-Sentinel. District officials are investigating the eligibility of some student-athletes who recently transferred to Palm Beach Central High School. Some students “provided invalid residency information upon registering at the school,” said a district official. Five of the players under investigation were held out of Thursday’s football game. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: District officials acknowledged Friday during a grievance hearing that there are more than 1,400 open work orders for air-conditioning issues and about half of them are considered priorities because the units aren’t working. Union officials filed the grievance, contending the school conditions are a violation of the district’s contract with teachers. Deputy superintendent Jason Pitts asked for patience. “It’s going to be a long process to get all of the schools with the funding that we’re receiving,” he said. WTVT. WFTS.

Brevard: Viera High School’s varsity and junior varsity football seasons have been suspended until further notice, head coach Shane Staples has been relieved of his duties and several players have been suspended because of a recent hazing incident that was recorded and posted to social media. In the 41-second video, boys wearing school training gear, shirts and helmets are seen cheering and laughing as others simulate sex acts with each other in an undisclosed location. “Hazing, bullying and intimidation have no place in Brevard Public Schools,” Superintendent Mark Rendell said in a statement Sunday night. “In an effort to educate the team to the seriousness of this incident, all Viera High football players will be required to take part in an anti-hazing educational program before there is a possibility that the football program could be reinstated.” Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. WOFL. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Volusia: District officials and the union representing teachers reach a contract settlement Friday. It calls for increasing compensation by $5.9 million, including a 2 percent increase in supplemental pay; a retention bonus increase and removal of a 30-year cap, a longevity bonus, and an agreement to the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation distribution plan. Union members are expected to vote on the agreement by Sept. 7, and the school board is scheduled to vote on it Sept. 12. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Students at Timbercrest Elementary and Galaxy Middle schools were sent home early Friday after their air-conditioning stopped working. Workers were at the school early for repairs, but determined the damage was to the cooling towers and would take time to fix, so students were dismissed. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Clay: A teacher and former assistant football coach at Oakleaf High School has been arrested and accused of inappropriately touching students at the school. Ben White, 40, who was also the girls weightlifting coach before he resigned in February, has been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation. Police said several Oakleaf students between the ages of 15 and 17 had notified them of White’s alleged behavior. WJAX. WJXT.

Citrus: A police dog is being used in district schools this year to detect vaping, said district police chief David Vincent. Sami is an 8-month-old rescue dog that is in training. “We take the odors from the vape cartridges, and we teach Sami what those scents are,” said dog trainer Trisha Cunningham, “which are basically nicotine and THC.” Sami and Cunningham will randomly float among the district’s middle and high schools. WFTS.

Franklin: Signs have been put around the K-12 Franklin County School to remind motorists to slow down because students are back on campuses. The school is off Highway 98, which has a speed limit of 60 mph in some areas. “I wanted people to be well aware that school was back in session and they are in a school zone,” said Sheriff A.J. Smith. “If we catch them, I don’t want them to say, ‘oh, I didn’t realize, I didn’t know.’ In a school zone, you make only one mistake and it could cost a child their life.” WMBB.

Colleges and universities: The only fulltime gender studies professor at New College of Florida has resigned after trustees recently voted to eliminate the program. In his resignation letter to interim president Richard Corcoran, Nick Clarkson wrote, “I am reluctant to leave my colleagues and students behind, but you’ve already destroyed the New College I loved, and I won’t work in an environment characterized by censorship, refusal of accountability, blatant disregard for students’ well-being, and consistent denigration of both my work and my personhood.” He had been at the school since 2018. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida’s university leaders decided Friday to ask the state Board of Governors for $357 million in extra funding to catch up on deferred maintenance projects. The board meets Aug. 30. Politico Florida. Florida A&M University has completed a $3.5 million renovation of two on-campus student housing complexes. WFSU. At orientation this weekend, incoming New College students expressed apprehension and hope about what they’ll experience when classes begin. Tampa Bay Times. Gulf Coast State College is partnering with the Bayway trolley service in Panama City to provide free rides for students. Panama City News Herald.

NIL for high schools: Coaches said they are losing talented athletes to other states because Florida law does not allow high school athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Karter Knox, a Tampa Catholic High School basketball star and recruit, is one of them. He left the school to play for Overtime Elite in Atlanta, where he can make money while still a prep athlete. His father, Kevin Knox, said, “We like Tampa Catholic. Our family will always be tied and in collusion with Tampa Catholic. But what we wanted to do like (any other) individuals, we live in America. Take advantage of the name, image and likeness, and that’s what we were able to do.” Experts in the NIL field predict Florida will change its law, probably within the next year. Tampa Bay Times.

Health survey delays: Three months after Florida rejected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s youth risk behavior survey and created and finished its own, no results have been released. Christy Devigili, a Lee County parent and advocate for parents’ rights, was one of 14 members who helped develop the state’s survey. She said, “I think this is just a ball that has been dropped. It’s been enough time, I would like to see some results.” The results were expected to be published this summer. WFTS.

Florida 28th on ACT: Florida’s average score of 19 out of 36 on the ACT puts it 28th in the country, and below the national average of 19.8. Students in the District of Columbia scored the highest at 26.9, followed by California, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Learner.

Around the nation: At least 19 Republican senators are calling on the Biden administration to release federal funds for hunting and archery classes in schools. In a letter, the senators said “hunting and archery are strongly connected to the traditions and heritage of America,” and that “these programs provided thousands of students with the opportunity to learn proper instruction for fireman and archery safety. Over 500,000 students participate and are certified through hunter education courses each year.” The 74.

Opinions on schools: Let us firmly reject the intrusion of climate denial propaganda into our classrooms and instead cultivate a learning environment that empowers students with accurate information, encourages critical thinking, and equips them to address the complex challenges of our time with honesty and empathy. Samantha Kaddis, Orlando Sentinel. A fact-check of a PragerU video includes what experts are several climate-denial talking points in a message that sounds like it was spun up by oil and gas interests. Mother Jones. The divisions on display in the latest Florida Atlantic University trustees meeting illustrate the damage caused by the state’s disruption of the presidential search. Trustee Brad Levine and other trustees consider the state action politically poisonous and out of line. Trustee Barbara Feingold defends the investigation and says it will reveal “the real truth.” This won’t end well. Steve Bousquet, Sun-Sentinel. We need to teach everything, not pick and choose what students learn. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle. The motivation behind the massive expansion of the Florida voucher system is a thinly veiled agenda to promote Christian nationalism. It is easier to promote this agenda in unregulated, unaccredited private schools, where even those without a college education can teach. Jeanne Goldberg, Fort Myers News-Press. Florida politicians think that their political goals are more important than educating the state’s children about our great and grand civilization. David Houle, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff