Florida schools roundup: Budget details, 911 tapes, school safety bill and more

Budget agreement: The state’s proposed $88.7 billion budget includes $21.1 billion for K-12 schools, an increase of $485 million over last year to boost per-student spending by $101.50, to $7,408. Much of the overall 7.6 percent budget hike is driven by increased spending for school security. “It put everything else we were working on, on a back burner,” says Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. “A lot of projects have fallen out. And money had to be reprioritized. It’s not often that you go into session and have to make a $400 million adjustment midstream.” The earliest a budget vote can be taken is Sunday, since state law requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period after a budget agreement is reached. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay TimesGateHouse. The budget deal boosts the amount of construction money for charter schools, and the way the money is raised and distributed could ease tensions between charters and their local districts. redefinED. A $500,000 grant for a famed Miami arts high school was cut from the state budget by legislative leaders. New World School of the Arts was the home of Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won the 2017 Academy Award for his screenplay for Moonlight, which won the award for best picture. Politico Florida.

School shooting developments: According to law enforcement communications during the Parkland school shooting, released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer Scot Peterson radioed that gunfire was happening inside Building 12, and he warned other officers to stay away. Peterson, who was called a coward by President Trump, has insisted publicly that he believed the gunfire was happening outside. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Listen to some of the 911 calls. Miami HeraldSun-Sentinel. A judge will review the video from outside the shooting scene before deciding if it will be made public. Sun-Sentinel. Accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz withdraws his not guilty plea to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder and is instead “standing mute,” his lawyers say. Sun-Sentinel. Student activists from Stoneman Douglas High lease office space as they prepare to launch their #Never Again movement nationwide. CBS News.

School safety bill: Lawmakers from both parties say they expect Gov. Rick Scott to sign the $400 million school safety bill that would, among other things, allow some employees to carry guns in schools. Scott has said he doesn’t want to arm teachers, but the final bill calls for school personnel other than fulltime teachers to be armed voluntarily, and most of the rest of the bill is in line with what he has advocated. Scott meets with families of the school shooting today. The bill also increases the legal age to buy long guns to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period to buy weapons, bans bump stocks and allows police to take guns from people judged to be mentally defective or in danger of harming themselves or others. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. The Florida Education Association urges Scott to veto funds for arming school personnel. Orlando Sentinel. Putting an armed resource officer into all the state’s schools would cost about $116 million, according to a recent Florida Department of Education survey. Gradebook. Legal experts say a school employee carrying a gun could be sued in civil court in an accidental shooting or if the gun is lost or stolen and later used in a crime. Reuters. Is the 132 hours of gun training for school employees detailed in the school safety bill enough? USA Today. Flagler County School Superintendent James Tager says his district won’t be arming any school workers other than law enforcement officers. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt says he would consider arming school employees. Panama City News Herald.

Tax cut package: The Senate votes today on a $168 million tax cut package that includes a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school supplies. Politico Florida.

School calendar: Hillsborough County School Board members find plenty to criticize in the proposed 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school calendars, especially the two days off for students to attend the Florida State Fair and the Strawberry Festival. Still, they approved the schedule for the next school year, which begins Aug. 10 and ends May 31. Tampa Bay Times.

Educator’s new role: Emma Banks, the CEO and president of Inlet Grove Community High School charter in Riviera Beach, lands a role in the next season of the TV show Empire, which begins March 28. South Florida Times.

Personnel moves: Corey Heroux, an assistant principal at John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce since August 2016, will become principal in June. She replaces Ben Hopper. TCPalm.

Principal under investigation: Manatee Middle School principal Pam Vickaryous is under investigation for the second time in the past four years, and has been transferred to the Collier County School District administration office. Neither Vickaryous nor school officials would comment on the nature of the latest investigation. In 2016, at least nine teachers and administrators filed complaints alleging that Vickaryous behaved erratically and with hostility, but no disciplinary action was taken. Naples Daily News.

Teacher’s claim questioned: Charges are dropped against a Hialeah man arrested for raping his autistic son after the boy’s teacher at James H. Bright/J. W. Johnson Elementary School used his hands to guide the boy’s hands to write down the accusations. The effectiveness of this form of “facilitated” communication has been widely debunked. Prosecutors conducted DNA testing after the arrest, and released the man when the tests came back negative. Miami Herald.

Teacher’s statements: Some parents are angry with an Orange County middle school teacher for her Twitter posts that are critical of Muslims and seem to endorse white supremacy groups. The posts were made by Sundai Brown, 51, a social studies teacher at Bridgewater Middle School. Bridgewater principal Andrew Jackson says he “addressed these concerns with the teacher at the time.” Orlando Sentinel.

Early educator resigns: Gilbert Rincon, the CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, resigns after being accused of sexual harassment, favoritism and creating a hostile work environment. The ELC oversees subsidized child care and early learning programs, inspects child-care providers and provides training and resources. Lakeland Ledger.

Teacher arrested: A Duval County teacher is arrested by the FBI on a charge of distributing child pornography. Jeremy Scott Clark, 44, is a math teacher at First Coast High School in Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

Ex-administrator suspended: A former assistant principal at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale loses his education license for a year. Paul Seay, 46, was accused of texting a 17-year-old student about booze, drugs and masturbation. He resigned last April after a district investigation of his conduct. Sun-Sentinel.

Special-needs student dies: A 14-year-old special-needs student dies after suffering a “medical event” while on a Polk County school bus. WFLA.

Gun found at school: A gun falls out of a kindergartner’s backpack at Somerset Academy Lakes in West Palm Beach. Sheriff’s deputies say the child did not know the gun was there. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. Sun-Sentinel.

School threats: Brevard County school officials say they failed to properly respond to a potential threat at Titusville’s Astronaut High School in January 2017. A teacher had discovered a student’s plan and notified school officials, but the threat was not passed on to the school officer. The student was arrested only after a relative of the teacher notified police. Parents weren’t notified of the threat until this week. WFTV. Florida Today. The Escambia County School District posts new instructions to follow during school lockdowns. Pensacola News Journal.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old student at Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School in Clay County is arrested and accused of leaving a threatening message in a school restroom. Florida Times-Union. A 17-year-old student at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens is arrested for allegedly threatening the school. Palm Beach Post. A 16-year-old student at Golden Gate High School in Naples is arrested and accused of bringing a knife to school. Naples Daily News. A 13-year-old student at Bunnell Elementary School is arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at other students outside the Flagler County school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. A student at Ridge Community High School in Haines City is arrested and accused of threatening a friend. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Florida is poised to test the NRA theory that  a “good man with a gun” could stop the kind of horrifying gun violence that erupted in Parkland last month. Fred Grimm, Sun-Sentinel.  The Florida Legislature has passed a caveat-heavy school safety bill that transfers the burden of protecting schools from the state to the districts and law enforcement officials. St. Augustine Record. Advocates argue for and against the law that would require every school building in Florida to prominently display the words, “In God We Trust.” Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Several Collier County educators win Stand Up For Justice grants for teaching their students about the importance of kindness. Naples Daily News.

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