9/11 school lessons, Flagler teacher involved in segregated assembly resigns, school book removals, district budgets, and more

Around the state: Monday might have been the first time many Florida students received required lessons about the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, the Flagler County elementary school teacher involved in the recent segregated assembly for black students only has resigned, Florida Department of Education data show nearly 390 books were removed from schools last year, Pasco school board members approve a $1.99 billion budget and Hernando’s board passes a $510.23 million spending plan, Brevard school board members are considering dropping the live broadcast of the public comments portion of board meetings, and Volusia’s school district is joining at least 12 other state school districts in suing social media companies for harming children’s mental health. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: Up to $12 million is being invested in 31 school music programs in the “A Reason to Succeed” initiative to give students greater access to instrumental education. Schools can use the money they receive to buy or repair instruments or collect more supplies. “It’s unimaginable to know we’re going to get funds to help make our programs complete,” said Susan Rodberg, the strings teacher and orchestra director at U.B. Kinsey Palmview Elementary School. “It opens a new line for younger kids to play different instruments like the viola or violin,” said U.B. Kinsey 5th-grader Cayden Blackshear. WPEC. Charles Maglio, 54, is the former math teacher at Wellington Community High School who was arrested last week and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student, according to the sheriff’s office. He’s been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor and an offense against a student by an authority figure. WPTV. WPEC. Palm Beach Post.

Pasco: School board members unanimously approved a $1.99 billion budget at their meeting Monday. Nearly $1 billion of the budget will go toward general operations, which is an increase of 10.5 percent over last year, while the capital project budget of $520.5 million is 2.6 percent less than last year’s. Tampa Bay Times. A dress code rule requiring shirts to extend to the waist could be on the way out. School board members said Monday that enforcing the rule, which began a month ago, has become a distratction for students and teachers and is taking time from administrators that could be used in more productive ways. “Our resources are wasted on addressing how long a student’s shirt is,” said board member Colleen Beaudoin, who added that no research has shown that clothing affects learning. “We have bigger fish we should be frying,” added colleague Alison Crumbley, who thought the previous rule dealt with any problems. A public hearing on the proposed change is set Oct. 3, with a school board vote Oct. 17. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: School board members are considering not broadcasting the public comments at board meetings because so many parents have used that time to read explicit passages of books they want removed from schools. A new state law that went into effect July 1 requires boards to allow parents to read “any material that is subject to an objection” during board meetings. If the board stops the reading, the book must be removed from libraries. To avoid explicit passages being broadcast, board members said they could tape the public comment portion and makie it available online with a content warning. “It would satisfy FCC guidelines … it would satisfy state law, because we’re allowing parents to read the content, it would help us stick to the book challenge process that we have established,” said board member Katye Campbell. The board is expected to resume the discussion at today’s workshop meeting. Florida Today.

Osceola: The Here Comes the Bus app has been reactivated by district officials after being shut down temporarily while school bus routes were being finalized. Parents can use the app to track their children’s buses and when they arrive at stops. WMFE.

Volusia: District officials have decided to join at least 12 other Florida school districts and 650 nationwide in suing social media companies that they contend are harming children’s mental health and burdening educators who have to deal with the problems caused. Tiktok, Snapchat, YouTube and the Meta platforms have hooked teens, leading to an increase in anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide, said William Shinoff, one of the lawyers representing Volusia County and other district. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A student at University High School in Orange has been arrested and accused of slashing a classmate’s face with a small keychain knife during a fight Monday. The victim’s injuries are not life-threatening, police said. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH.

Marion: Construction has begun on a $5.57 million automotive, diesel and aviation technician training facility at Marion Technical College. The 16,000-square-foot building is going up on the southeast section of the campus and is expected to be finished before September 2025. The program runs up to two years, and graduates earn certificates and “industry certifications in specialty areas,” a school district spokesperson said. Ocala Star-Banner.

Hernando: In a 3-2 vote last week, school board members approved a $510.23 million budget. That’s $39.36 million more than the district spent in the past fiscal year. Voting against it were Mark Johnson and Shannon Rodriguez. Johnson said, “I just don’t like some of the line items. I think we’re spending too much on administration payroll,” adding that the district doesn’t need 35 directors, “executive directors, managers, coordinators, supervisors at the district level. We could use that money more efficiently.” Suncoast News.

Charlotte: Replacing Port Charlotte Middle School could cost up to $80 million, school board members were told at Monday’s workshop meeting. The roof of the school, built in 1971, was destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Charley and again in 2022 by Hurricane Ian, and board members have long discussed the option of rebuilding the school instead of repairing the roof, which will cost about $5 million. While the board continues to debate the options, the district will ask legislators for state money and the county for federal funds. Charlotte Sun.

Flagler: The Bunnell Elementary School teacher who was involved in having only black students attend an assembly three weeks ago to discuss low standardized test scores has resigned. Anthony Hines had been placed on leave after the incident and resigned Friday, two days after principal Donelle Evensen also stepped down. WESH. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.

Putnam: A 13-year-old 7th-grader at Interlachen Junior-Senior High School was arrested on Monday and accused of having a weapon at school. School resource officers received a tip about a weapon, confronted the girl during first period and found her in possession of a pellet gun, they said. She told deputies she just wanted to show it off to friends. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida officials say the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation into allegations that the school “excluded qualified persons with disabilities from participation in, denied them the benefits of, or otherwise subjected them to discrimination in its programs, activities, aids, benefits, or services” are without merit. The investigation was launched after a civil rights complaint was filed against New College for an alleged ongoing trend of discrimination against “protected groups,” such as LGBTQ students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A course on race, class and gender was canceled at Florida State University less than week before the fall semester began Aug. 28. School officials said it was canceled because only two people enrolled. “There’s a possibility that it’ll be offered in the spring again to see if more people are interested in it,” said an FSU spokesperson. Tallahassee Democrat.

Lessons of 9/11: For many Florida students, Monday might have been the first time they had extended lessons about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States. A law that went into effect July 1 requires at least 45 minutes of instruction about the history and significance of the day. Social studies teachers are required to cover the historical context of global terrorism, a timeline of events from that day, the heroism displayed by first responders and civilians, the outpouring of humanitarian and charitable aid after the events, and the global response to the attacks. WMFE.

Books removed: Nearly 390 books were removed from school library shelves during the 2022-2023 school year, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Education. Clay County had the most with 177, with Martin second at 98 and Manatee third with 25. While books with sexual or racial elements by such authors as Toni Morrison drew most of the attention, there were some surprising removals after complaints about content. Among them: Ready Player One for profanity and for references to prostitution and drugs, in Clay County; Christian, the Hugging Lion, a true story about a lion raised by two men in a London apartment, in Manatee; Michelangelo, a book about the artist that depicts some of his work of nudes, in Manatee; What on Earth is a Pangolin?, which is about a scaly, anteater-like mammal native to Asia and Africa, in Manatee; and “Will We Ever Grow Organs,” a National Geographic article about a doctor who built windpipes out of stem cells but was later sent to prison for assault, by the Florida Virtual School. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the nation: The school choice movement has had its most successful year ever, propelled by the confluence of the effects of the pandemic and the rise of educational culture wars. What comes next? Vox.

Opinions on schools: We should greatly prefer a rational basis over an arbitrary basis for allowing or denying purchases related to educational choice. Hopefully, the broader universe of choice administrators will go through trial and error to develop things that work. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Public schools’ selective admissions criteria have not generated the outrage or judicial scrutiny that they deserve, despite the harm they’ve done to the nation’s children and the country. It’s time to end geography-based school assignments and all the other ways public elementary schools cherry-pick their students. Tim DeRoche, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff