Security in schools, lawsuits, ‘do not hire’ teacher list, human trafficking and more

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Security in schools: Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission say some progress is being made in securing schools, but not quickly enough. Damien Kelly, director of the Office of Safe Schools at the Florida Department of Education, said only 25 of the state’s 67 school districts have a guardian program to arm school employees, about 20 percent of the districts have only an unarmed, uniformed officer present during school hours, fewer than half the districts have an opaque covering for classroom doors with windows, and the county’s emergency radio system has not been upgraded. Commission chair Bob Gualtieri, the Pinellas County sheriff, is critical of districts for refusing to arm teachers. “This needs to be viewed through a lens of not what you would like in a perfect world, but you can live with,” he said. “I can’t live with dead kids.” Commission members also discussed the possibility of having a grading system on how well schools are implementing policies to keep students safe. Sun Sentinel. Politico Florida. WLRN. Six Flagler Palm Coast High School students are asked by the commission to present their specialized school safety program at schools around the state. WKMG. Florida Sen. Rick Scott has asked the FBI for an update on how it’s disciplined employees who received tips before the 2018 shooting at the Parkland school but didn’t follow up. Sun Sentinel. Ex-Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s appeal of his suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis will go directly to the state Supreme Court. Sun Sentinel. The Manatee County School Board tables a resolution against arming teachers in schools on Tuesday, but all five members say they are against it. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Shooting lawsuit: Families of the victims of the Parkland shooting are expected to announce “sweeping” legal actions today against the Broward County School Board, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and other agencies, as well as individuals such as Broward deputy Scot Peterson, for negligence and other wrongful acts. Attorneys say at least 20 lawsuits will be filed. “All the families are taking action tomorrow,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died. “ I’m not sure if it’s going to be exactly the same among all the families yet, I’ve got to talk to my attorney. But yes, I will be filing tomorrow.” WFOR. Miami Herald.

‘Do not hire’ teacher list: Committees in both the House and Senate approve bills that would create a list of people who would be barred from working in public, private and charter schools. They also would be banned from operating a private school or serving on a charter school board. Both bills (S.B. 1444 and H.B. 1127) would prohibit schools from hiring anyone on the list. Next, the bills go before the full Senate and House for votes. Gradebook. News Service of Florida. WJCT.

Human trafficking instruction: The House Education Committee unanimously approves a bill that would add information about human trafficking into health classes taught in public schools. The bill now goes before the full House. Associated Press.

School consolidation: A Duval County School District plan to consolidate Raines and Ribault high schools with their feeder middle schools is drawing opposition from the communities they serve. Critics say both high schools are historic and vital to their neighborhoods. The plan is part of a $1.95 billion proposal to repair, replace and renovate aging district schools. The school board is expected to vote on it in August. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Superintendent’s job: Three of the five Indian River County School Board members say they are against extending the contract of Superintendent Mark Rendell beyond its July 2020 end-date, and want a new superintendent. The board will formally vote on the non-extension April 23, and also could negotiate a resignation package for Rendell. Rendell notified the board members last month that he is looking for another job. TCPalm.

Contract negotiations: Broward County teachers, who still don’t have a contract for this school year, are protesting against the district’s latest pay offer. The district is offering a 2 percent raise, but only retroactive to January. A 7 percent hike is proposed for next school year, when money from a voter-approved referendum becomes available. The union wants 4 percent this year and 9 percent next year. Sun Sentinel. A federal mediator will meet with Pasco County school officials and representatives of the teachers union this weekend in an effort to resolve a three-month impasse over a new contract. The sides have agreed on pay and seniority issues, but not on evaluations and training time for teachers at turnaround schools. Gradebook.

Outside operator hired: Local educator Jayne Ellspermann has been hired to become Oakcrest Elementary School’s external operator if the school doesn’t receive a C grade from the state this summer. The Marion County School Board chose her over five other vendors. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charter schools: The application for the Southeast Volusia School of Science and Technology, a charter middle-high school, is unanimously approved by the Volusia County School Board. The school is expected to open in August 2020 in Edgewater. The board also denied an application for a STEM-oriented elementary charter school, and an academy for at-risk high school students withdrew its application. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Special education report: The Okaloosa County School District’s special education programs need more professional specialists, more training for teacher and a timeline for making improvements, according to a review by the Florida Department of Education. Among the positions needed, according to the report, are behavioral specialists, speech and language pathologists, a school counselor, a social worker and a mental health specialist. The state began its investigation after a series of accusations of child abuse that resulted in criminal charges and several lawsuits. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Board declines new role: The Citrus County School Board turns down a request that it take ownership of the Citrus County Hospital Board’s properties and assets, including Citrus Memorial Hospital and its lease to Health Corporation of America, after the hospital board ceases to exist. “I can’t find a benefit to our kids or teachers in the classrooms,” said board member Sandy Counts. “We’ve got so much that we have to do for our own business.” Citrus County Chronicle.

School start times: The Orange County School Board will consider options for later high school starting times at a May meeting. District officials are preparing choices to move the high school start time later than the current 7:20 a.m., though the board is not expected to take a vote and no changes are likely to be made for the 2019-2020 school year. Orlando Sentinel.

Child-care survey: The Volusia County School District is surveying its middle school parents to see if they want child-care before schools open. Under a recently approved change in school start times, the county’s 12 middle schools will begin at 9:30 a.m. The survey is available until Monday. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Future high school site: The St. Johns County School Board votes to move a future high school site out of the SilverLeaf planned community. Instead, the board would locate the school at an adjacent 100-acre site and link it to the community with a road that will be paid for by the developer. St. Augustine Record. WJAX.

School closing: Island Christian School, a private school in Islamorada, is closing at the end of this school year. School officials cite financial problems, saying it needed 145 students paying the $9,000 a year tuition to remain solvent, but has fewer than 100. The school opened in 1974. Key West Citizen.

City buys old school: The city of Clearwater is buying the historic North Ward Elementary School, which operated from 1915 until 2009, from the Pinellas County School Board for $1.8 million. The purchase is part of a revitalization effort in that area of the city, and officials plan to lease or sell the building. Tampa Bay Times.

School collecting scents: A Tallahassee school that serves autistic students has purchased “scent kits” for those students as a way to find them if they get lost or run away. A wipe is used to capture a Capital Preparatory School student’s scent and is then kept in a bottle in case it’s needed. WTXL.

Screening athletes: Brevard County school officials are considering requiring EKGs for all student-athletes. Only the Calhoun County School District now requires heart screening for all student-athletes, although Osceola County will in the fall. WKMG.

Guns and schools: A 14-year-old student is arrested and accused of making a false report about a gunman on the campus of Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale on March 11. The call led to a three-hour lockdown of the school and Dillard Middle School. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. A man who brought a loaded AK-47 pistol to his son’s school in Palm Beach County on March 29 pleads guilty and is sentenced to almost a year of house arrest. Bear Lakes Middle School principal Kirk Powell said Christopher Freeman “never brandished the gun or threatened the office staff with it at any time.” Palm Beach Post.

No charges after student hit: A driver who hit a student trying to cross a road to get to his Cape Coral high school will not be charged. According to the police report, the accident happened in an area where it is “extremely difficult to see pedestrians in the crosswalk due to lack of lighting.” The student was not seriously injured, but will need dental work and braces, according to his mother. Fort Myers News-Press.

Sex assault investigation: The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and the school district are investigating reports of a sexual assault at Pine Forest High School on Tuesday. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: State lawmakers need to start adequately funding education needs and bring per-pupil public school funding and teacher salaries up to respectable levels, rather than creating new ways to divert taxpayer money to private and religious schools. Gainesville Sun. With state budget negotiations under way, lawmakers are short-changing public schools, universities and health care. Local school districts could be among the losers. Tampa Bay Times. With a green-light from new Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida lawmakers have been cut loose to prove that bad education policy can always be made substantially worse. Kathleen Oropeza, The Progressive. Term limits would remove entitled, self-serving school board members. They also would remove selfless, hard-working board members. Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel. You can’t convince vaccination critics that they are wrong. But they are, and they’re putting other peoples’ health at risk. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Self-defense classes for high school girls are being offered by the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. Charlotte Sun.