Florida schools roundup: Top court takes education suit, school security and more

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Top court takes case: The Florida Supreme Court agrees to review a nearly 10-year-old lawsuit that claims the state has failed to meet its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools. The case, brought by the group called Citizens for Strong Schools, has already been rejected by a Leon County circuit judge and the 1st District Court of Appeal, and the state had argued against the Supreme Court’s involvement. When the suit was filed in 2009, it alleged that funding for schools was inadequate and that schools were hamstrung by regulations such as standardized testing. The suit was broadened in 2014 to argue that the state’s school choice programs harm public education (Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two of those programs). The court ordered the plaintiffs to file legal briefs by May 21. News Service of FloridaredefinED.

Securing schools: School officials around Florida are struggling to find ways to comply with the new state law that requires armed security on every campus. Last school year there were about 1,500 school resource officers for about 3,800 state K-12 schools. “The biggest hurdle is not lack of willingness, it’s not even an issue of funding,” says Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It’s that everyone across the state … is going to be hiring law enforcement at the same time.” Twenty-three of the state’s 67 districts responded to a survey updating their progress at fulfilling the state requirement. Some are considering tax hikes. Some are working with law enforcement to share costs of officers. Some are considering arming school personnel. And some are hiring safety “assistants” who aren’t sworn officers. Tampa Bay Times. The Duval County School Board is expected to vote today on a proposal to hire 103 armed safety assistants to guard elementary schools. WJCT.

Deputy targeted in suit: The father of a student who died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings on Feb. 14 is suing the Broward County sheriff’s deputy who stayed outside as the gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died, names deputy Scot Peterson, confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz, the estate of Cruz’s mother, the couple who took Cruz in, and three mental health facilities. “Peterson is my main target,” Pollack says of the deputy who was suspended for his actions and then retired. “He could have stopped it. Could have saved my kid. Nobody should be able to not do their job, receive a pension and ride off into the sunset.” Sun-SentinelMiami Herald.

District again changes story: First, Sarasota County school officials said Manatee County didn’t warn them that a teacher they were considering for a job had been accused of inappropriately touching female students. Then they said they didn’t know about a state database that keeps records on investigations of teachers. Now they’re saying they routinely use that database, but didn’t in this case because they had trouble accessing it. Quentin Peterson, the teacher who was hired, was later arrested and accused of possessing child pornography. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Open enrollment: Fifty-one Palm Beach County elementary schools are accepting applications for transfers under the state’s open enrollment, along with 15 middle schools and eight high schools. Palm Beach Post.

Politics and education: Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says the keys to school safety are improving the state’s mental health programs and tightening campus security. Associated Press. Former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham has always been a booster of civics education in schools. But he says he’s voting against the constitutional amendment that promotes civics teaching in the state because it’s bundled with a provision that would take take charter school authorization away from local school boards. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Rezoning challenge: A Florida administrative judge will take testimony May 17 in a parent’s challenge to the latest school boundary proposal from the Pasco County School District. The school board held a public hearing on the rezoning in April and are scheduled to vote on it today. Gradebook.

Student suing sheriff: The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department is being sued by the family of a 14-year-old for having her involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric ward for observation after allegedly threatening to harm herself. The girl’s parents claimed their daughter was just being dramatic and was improperly detained. Pensacola News Journal.

Dress code criticized: The American Civil Liberties Union says the Manatee County School District’s dress code enforcement is unconstitutional, sexist and violates federal Title IX. The ACLU is responding to an incident in which a 17-year-old Braden River High School student was told to put bandages over her nipples when she recently went to school braless. The group says requiring girls to wear bras to school, as Superintendent Diana Greene has proposed, amounts to “romantic paternalism.” Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-TribunePolitico Florida.

Discrimination case tossed: An assistant principal’s discrimination complaint against Sarasota County Superintendent Todd Bowden and Booker High School principal Rachel Shelley is dismissed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the complaint was “inconclusive.” It was filed by Booker assistant principal Lyna Jimenez-Ruiz, who had previously lodged a sexual harassment allegation against Bowden. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent evaluation: After saying last week that her evaluation of Hillsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins was between him and her, board member Melissa Snively changes her mind and releases it. She gave Eakins a middling grade, saying communications have improved, but that putting an emphasis on keeping students in class instead of disciplining them is causing problems for teachers. Gradebook.

New heat illness rule: The Florida High School Athletic Association approves a new policy that requires coaches and athletes to pass a heat illness prevention course. A proposal to require wet bulb globe thermometers and cold water immersion tubs near practice fields is tabled, though data will be collected and the agency will reconsider at a meeting in June. WBBH. Fort Myers News-Press.

Racial tensions discussed: Riverview High School students, administrators and civic leaders meet to discuss the racial tensions at the Sarasota County school. A racist promposal recent posted on social media and racial slurs written in school bathrooms prompted the meeting. WTSP.

Substitute complaints: The Hillsborough County School District changes its complaint and tracking forms for substitute teachers, omitting a space for additional comments on why a school no longer wants to use a particular substitute. Now principals are directed to call the company that supplies substitutes if they want a more specific reason that is not contained on the provided check list. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher’s license revoked: A social studies teacher at a charter school in Boynton Beach has his license revoked by the state for offering an 18-year-old student test answers if she sent him nude photos. Christopher Fisher, 31, who taught at Quantum High, was suspended after the 2016 accusation and resigned a day later. Another teacher at the school, Khemrajee Kangal, was reprimanded by the state’s Education Practices Commission for not reporting Fisher to administrators after being informed by the student. Sun-Sentinel.

Armed teen ruled incompetent: A 17-year-old boy who is accused of carrying a rifle near the campus of Jacksonville’s Kirby-Smith Middle School in March is declared incompetent to stand trial. Florida Times-Union.

Discipline protested: Two Lake Alfred Elementary School teachers are put on leave after reportedly making a 7-year-old student scrub floors with a toothbrush as punishment for misbehaving at the Polk County school. Lakeland LedgerWFLA. WFTS.

Students arrested: A freshman at Oasis Charter High School in Cape Coral is arrested and accused of making an online threat against Oasis Elementary School. Fort Myers News-Press. A 16-year-old student is arrested and accused of having a gun in his car trunk at Kids Community College Charter School in Hillsborough County. Patch.

Opinions on schools: Ohio adopted many of the same educational reforms that Florida implemented during Jeb Bush’s tenure as governor. So why is Florida making progress but Ohio is mostly treading water in NAEP testing? To put it simply, success rests on both sound policy and robust implementation. Chad L. Aldis, Thomas B. Fordham Institute. I wish those complaining about charter schools would take the time to talk to parents like myself, whose priority is their children’s education, not politics. David Concepcion, Tallahassee Democrat. It’s saddening and deeply sobering to think that we have allowed our national crisis of violence to reach a point where we’re forced to spend more on barricading schools’ doors than opening children’s minds. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The Viera Charter School’s Odyssey of the Mind Team wins the Florida competition to advance to the world competition in Ames, Iowa. Viera Voice. Second-grade students at San Antonio Elementary School in Pasco County create a quilt that honors pioneers and the lives they led. Tampa Bay Times. Gorrie Elementary School in Tampa kicks off a kindness campaign as a preventative measure against bullying. WFLA.