Corporal punishment bill, vaping suit expands, book vending machine and more

Jim Booth

Corporal punishment: Parents would have to give schools permission to use corporal punishment on their children under a bipartisan pair of bills filed this week for consideration during the legislative session that begins Jan. 14. S.B. 1058 was filed by Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, and H.B. 781 is sponsored by Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami. The bills require written notice from the school principal of the intent to paddle, and written consent from the parents before the principal can administer the punishment. It also would ban corporal punishment for students with disabilities, and would begin July 1, 2020. Just 19 of the state’s 67 school districts used corporal punishment during the 2017-2018 school year. Florida Politics.

Another district joins vaping suit: The Brevard County School District has joined Palm Beach County and other U.S. school districts in a national lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs. The suit, filed in federal court, alleges that Juul threatens the health of students and that the district’s resources are being depleted by dealing with the resulting health problems and in enforcing district rules against its use in schools. District officials said they suspended 329 students during the 2017-2018 school year for vaping. Florida Today. WKMG. Spectrum News 13.

Book vending machine: A vending machine with books instead of candy has been installed at Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter as a way to reward students. Golden tokens are awarded to students for reading, good behavior, grades, attendance and other achievements, that they can then use to choose from 20 different books in the vending machine known as Bookworm. “We are thrilled to enact this energizing new way to promote literacy,” said principal Jeffrey Eassa. “Early literacy development is vital to later academic success. Rewarding students with books is a win-win.” Palm Beach Post.

Recording school threats: The Florida Department of Education is asking for vendors to submit proposals to create a computerized system to report and record threats in schools. DOE wants an inexpensive, user-friendly, cloud-based system. The request is meant to fulfill a recommendation from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission to set up a statewide database to hold threat assessments and be accessible to all districts. The commission was critical of the Broward County School District for its failure to properly record threat assessments that could be shared among local and state agencies. Politico Florida.

Firings appealed: The Palm Beach County principal who was fired after his remarks questioning the Holocaust created an uproar has filed a request for a review by the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings. William Latson contends his firing from Spanish River High School was a violation of his First Amendment rights, and that the “retaliation by a school district for exercise of that right creates constitutional implications.” Latson has requested a February hearing. Politico Florida. A Pasco County middle school resource officer who was fired for accidentally discharging his gun in the cafeteria at lunchtime is appealing his dismissal to a career service appeal board. Jonathan Cross, formerly a corporal with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, was fidgeting with his pistol when it fired at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel, according to surveillance video. Fresh Take Florida.

Voting on a contract: Orange County teachers are voting for a second time on a proposed contract agreement with the school district. The deal would give most teachers raises of $2,800 and freeze insurance premiums until next fall. Ballots were mailed to about 14,000 teachers on Nov. 8, and must be returned by Dec. 5. A previous negotiated agreement, which had smaller raises, one-time bonuses and big increases in insurance premiums, was rejected. Orlando Sentinel.

New superintendent: Indian River County School Board members approve a contract that will pay new school Superintendent David Moore $180,000 a year. Moore replaces interim superintendent Susan Moxley, whose last day is Dec. 19. He officially starts Dec. 20, but says his first day of work is Monday. TCPalm.

A principal’s story: Twenty-eight years ago, Zulaika Quintero’s family moved from Mexico to Immokalee to work in the fields. Today, at 33, Quintero is the principal at Immokalee Community School. She uses her own experience to connect with the students, many of whom are also the children of migrant workers, and the school has improved from a D grade three years ago to B grades in each of the past two years. “They (the students) see themselves in her,” said Juana Brown, director of RCMA Charter Schools and the person who hired Quintero. “She’s one of them.” Naples Daily News.

School’s heavy equipment: The Flagler County School District has become the first in the state to acquire a $35,000 heavy equipment simulator that uses software to train students how to operate backhoes. “This really helps prevent any kind of injury or destruction to the equipment because students get the opportunity to practice here first before they get on the actual equipment,” said FTI director Renee Stauffacher. School officials are trying to raise money to also buy software programs for other pieces of heavy equipment. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School property sale: The Volusia County School Board is being asked to consider selling a 78-acre property in Daytona Beach for $4.5 million to a developer who wants to build a clinic for veterans. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Preschool closes: The Discovery Learning Academy preschool in Niceville closed unexpectedly Tuesday, leaving 160 children and their families looking for other options. Owner/manager Ashlei Bruewer said the closure was brought on by “financial viability issues.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

School bus safety: The amount of money paid out by the Alachua County School District because of school bus accidents has declined from almost $592,000 in 2016 to about $120,000 in each of the past two years and about $12,500 so far this school year. School officials attribute the improvement to the addition of a safety supervisor, better safety training and new buses with new sensors. WUFT.

School’s trees saved: Work by neighborhood activists have saved 60 pines, oaks, palms and shrubs around the Plant High School track in south Tampa. Residents of the neighborhood had been notified in May that the trees would have to be removed because of repairs being made to the track, and began a lobbying effort to stop it. Last week, school officials announced no trees would be removed. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher under investigation: A Palm Beach County teacher is under investigation after allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a student, fixed grades and gave students money while he was working at Long Island High School in New York. Peter Muhlbach, 53, a math teacher at Olympic Heights Community High School in Boca Raton, left his job in New York on Sept. 1. Palm Beach County school officials say they recently became aware of Muhlbach’s history in New York and are investigating. WPTV.

Teacher’s records sought: The Highlands County School Board is being subpoenaed to provide employment records for a former substitute teacher who was arrested for sexual battery at the Heartland Christian Academy in Sebring. The students and their families are suing Heartland, saying the school knew or should have known about previous sexual misconduct committed by Jack Charles Howard III when he substituted in the Highlands district in 2014 and had his teaching license revoked by the state. Highlands News-Sun.

School intruder arrested: A Seminole County man has been arrested and charged with breaking into and damaging Bear Lake Elementary School on Aug. 25. Christian Shay, 25, was caught on surveillance cameras walking through the school wearing only a shirt. He was charged with damaging property, burglary of a structure, petty theft, indecent exposure of sexual organs and nuisance injurious to health. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: It’s time the state of Florida pass a common-sense immunization policy that will keep preventable diseases away from our children and our schools. Dr. Lisa Gwynn and Benjamin Schachner, Sun Sentinel. The teacher of the year award is a platform to give voice to students and to encourage people to appreciate the work teachers do every day. Shane Swezey, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. If Sarasota County School Board members keep their minds open and their egos in check, they can work together to to find a superintendent who will lead, inspire and rebuild trust. Scott Ferguson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren could learn a few things about the school choice movement by listening to people like civil rights activist and education reform advocate Dr. Howard Fuller and charter school operator Margaret Fortune. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Students with disabilities get help with routine activities on field trips every Friday through Naples High School’s Career Transition and Experience program. Naples Daily News. Lake County schools have received more than $500,000 in grants from the state to expand workforce educational programs. Daily Commercial. Lydia Lowe, a 9-year-old from Fort Walton Beach, is collecting bags of food so needy people will have a Thanksgiving meal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Parents who want to reconnect their children to their Mandarin and Chinese heritage can do so at 11 schools around the state. WUFT.

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