Florida schools roundup: Book ban, bathroom fights, expulsions and more

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florida-roundup-logoBook banned: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a coming of age novel by Stephen Chbosky, is being removed from the curriculum at Pasco Middle School. A school-based committee made up of parents, teachers and administrators decided the book was too sexually graphic. A district committee agrees, and recommends it be banned from all district schools. That decision will be made by School Superintendent Kurt Browning. Tampa Bay Times.

Bathroom fight: A vote on a proposed change in the Duval County School District’s bathroom policy is tabled after a city attorney cautioned members about making public comments. John Phillips, general counsel for the city, says any comments could be used against the board in a lawsuit brought by a mother of four district students. That mother says the current policy, which bans discrimination due to gender identity, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, deprives her children of the “right to bodily privacy.” Florida Times-Union. Gov. Rick Scott tells an Orlando TV station: “If this federal mandate means that a man could walk into the bathroom of a young lady or the locker room of a young lady, that is clearly concerning.” It was Scott’s first public reaction to the Obama administration directive to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity or face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid. WESH.

Expulsions, suspensions: A community group made up law enforcement officials, attorneys, judges, school officials and academics is trying to create a program to cut back the Sarasota County School District’s use of expulsions and out-of-school suspensions. The group hopes to land a $4 million grant to create a Juvenile Court Intervention Team at some high schools. Those teams work with students to minimize time spent out of school. The district expelled the second-highest number of students in the state from 2010 to 2014. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Contract negotiations: The Lake County School Board rules in favor of the school district over the service workers union in a dispute about seniority rights for bus drivers and monitors for the summer. The district wanted to use seniority by position, while the union wanted district-wide seniority. The vote was 3-2. A wage increase for union workers is not affected. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel. Polk County School District teachers, paraprofessionals and secretaries vote in favor of a contract with the district for the school year now ending. They will be paid retroactively. The school board has already approved the deals. Negotiations will now begin on the 2016-2017 school year contract. Lakeland Ledger.

School impact fees: The Manatee County School Board will deliberate again today on how much to collect from the school impact fee. The board already agreed to cut back on the fee to 50 percent of the maximum allowable rate if a half-cent sales tax increase is approved by voters in November. But board member Charlie Kennedy wants to reconsider. Critics say the reduced fee is an unwarranted giveaway to developers. Bradenton Herald.

State testing: Not a single third-grader at two charter elementary schools in Palm Beach County passed the statewide reading exam. Learning Path Academy in West Palm Beach and Belle Glade Excel Charter School are small, low-income schools that have many students with learning disabilities or language barriers. “I’ve never seen it where no one passed,” says Jim Pegg, who oversees the county’s charter schools. “I would say that’s not good at all.” Palm Beach Post. Hundreds of third-graders in St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties could be retained because they didn’t pass the Florida Standards Assessments reading and writing tests. TCPalm.

Pledge of Allegiance: The Lake County School Board adopts a policy allowing students to opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Several board members say they don’t like the policy, but agreed to it because of a recently passed state law. “I make a motion we approve this because we have to,” said board member Debbie Stivender. Daily Commercial.

Job elimination: The Polk County School Board is expected to vote today on eliminating the job of the executive secretary who tipped off an investigator that the previous superintendent had a romantic interest in an associate superintendent. Carol Trudell was transferred by that superintendent, Kathryn LeRoy, who later resigned. Lakeland Ledger.

No agreement: A former football coach at Manatee High School is refusing to sign a settlement over a lawsuit he brought against the district. Stephen Gulash says he was harassed and intimidated by the district after he spoke out against the actions of former football coach Rod Frazier. The school board has prepared a settlement for $25,000, but Gulash says he wants to take the case to trial as a matter of principle. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Suit may be dropped: Bay Haven Charter Academy Inc.’s lawsuit against two former North Bay Haven Academy administrators is likely to be dropped, according to a recent court filing. The suit claimed the two broke an agreement by filing a complaint alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. Court documents show both sides now agree the pair’s complaints covered events that happened outside the time frame of the suit. Those complaints will move forward. Panama City News Herald.

Open enrollment: Florida’s new open enrollment policy is part of a slowly growing national movement. How much of an impact it has may be decided in how the details of the law are interpreted. Education Week.

AP computer science: Enrollment in AP computer science courses is leveling off around the state. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Bus driving questioned: An investigation shows that both Broward and Miami-Dade county public school districts permit bus drivers to continue to drive even after causing crashes and committing traffic infractions. WTVJ.

School threats: A coordinated wave of bomb threats are made to schools in Florida and at least 17 other states on Monday. The threats appear to be driven by automated calls. WTSP.

Teacher arrested: Casey Turner, a physical education teacher at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg, is arrested and accused of driving while under the influence. Turner was a contestant on the reality TV show Big Brother in 2009. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Here’s why teachers love the last days of schools. It’s not what you might think. Kari Watts, Orlando Sentinel.