School threats and the toll on students, potential solutions, the politics of teacher raises and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

The toll of school threats: False school threats have become so commonplace that the lockdowns they provoke often can get overlooked by most people in a community. But for those students who go through the lockdowns, the threats are very real and can cause fear and anxiety lasting for hours, days or longer. “If you’re in a moment when you think this is the last few seconds of your life,” said Nicholas Cutro, a school psychologist in Orange County, “that’s a traumatic event. The truth is, I don’t think any of us really know what the consequences are.” During the 2017-2018 school year, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, more than 4 million U.S. students went through at least one lockdown. Tampa Bay Times.

Addressing school violence: Lawmakers and educators are responding to recently published reports of threats to schools from emotionally unstable students with a variety of possible solutions. Among them: revising laws that protect disabled students but also restrict the ability of school officials to deal with threats they pose, improving mental services in schools and integrating them with family counseling, training teachers on ways to better handle special-needs students, improving tracking of violent students and boosting spending to support disruptive students and provide the therapy they need. Sun Sentinel. The number of student assaults against Polk County school employees jumped from fewer than 15 two school years ago to 64 in 2018-2019. In the first four months of this school year, through Dec. 9, 26 incidents have been reported. Lakeland Ledger. Seven people died and 43 were wounded in 24 shootings at U.S. schools or during school-sponsored events in 2019, according to records kept by the publication Education Week. Education Week.

Politics and teacher raises: Gov. Ron DeSantis has called 2020 the year of the teacher in Florida, is proposing to raise pay for starting teachers and wants a new bonus program. Florida is buzzing about the moves, and they’re attracting attention nationally. But what can actually get done? Legislators are pointing at the sheer cost — more than $900 million — and equity issues as serious obstacles to DeSantis’ plans. The legislative session begins Jan. 14. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald.

Educator honored: Jae Glass, a 7th-grade language arts teacher at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, has been named the Gulf County School District teacher of the year. Port St. Joe Star.

IG’s power may be cut: Palm Beach County school officials are proposing ways to limit the authority of the school board’s inspector general. The initiative was prompted last spring, after an IG investigation disclosed that the principal and assistant principal at Palm Beach Central High improperly raised the grades of at least 11 students between 2016 and 2018. Both were removed, though the principal has since returned, and the school administrators’ association complained that the release of the report before the district had a chance to review it “created a high degree of uncertainty regarding the support and trust” given to school administrators. Palm Beach Post.

Keeping cadets together: Marion County School Board members meet today in an emergency session to see if there’s a way to keep the 185 cadets from the Marion Military Academy together. MMA closed Monday for financial reasons. On Wednesday, district Superintendent Heidi Maier gave students four choices for new schools. Since then, MMA officials have met with Maier and other district officials about possible options to place the cadets at the same school. Ocala Star-Banner.

Medical marijuana in schools: The Monroe County School Board approves a policy that will allow students to receive medical marijuana treatment at schools. A caregiver or parent will have to bring the drug to school, administer it, and then take it out from the school. No school worker is permitted to touch the medication. Key West Citizen.

New schools planned: The First Baptist Academy in Jacksonville has announced plans to build a new K-12 college prep school on the grounds of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes campus on the city’s south side. Construction begins early next year, and officials hope to have the school open for its 360 students by the fall. Florida Times-Union. The Naples Classical Academy, a charter school that will focus on a traditional liberal arts and science curriculum, is preparing to open next fall in north Naples for K-6 students. No specific location has been announced. School officials have applied to  Hillsdale College to be a part of the Barney Charter School Initiative. Naples Daily News.

Changing a school name: Many residents of Orange County want to change the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School, and the Orange County School Board is expected to consider it early in 2020. Earlier this year a school advisory committee proposed simply dropping the word Stonewall from the name to rid the school of the Confederate association, but many in the community are pushing for a new name. Orlando Sentinel.

Top bus driver named: Jo-Ann Donovan, a bus driver for the Charlotte County School District, has been named the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s bus driver of the year. Donovan helped authorities find a developmentally challenged student who had run away from home. Charlotte Sun.

School fundraising site: A Manatee County man has developed a website that he says will make it easier for schools to raise money. Frank DiGiovanni, an entrepreneur and financial adviser, started “Schoolvite,” which partners with local vendors that can be hired for birthday parties and other special events as a school fund-raiser. Businesses agree to pay back 7.5 percent of the total cost of the event, with 5 percent going to the chosen school and 2.5 percent to Schoolvite.  Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers and the law: A teacher at a Miami-Dade County charter school has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. Police say Desiree Cartin Rodriguez, 27, a teacher at Doral Academy Preparatory High School, is charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a 15-year-old boy. Miami Herald.

Arrest in shooting at school: A 50-year-old Naples man has been arrested and charged with shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend at Lely High School in Naples last Thursday night. The woman was attending night English classes for adults at the school.  Naples Daily News.

Students and the law: A 12-year-old Lee County student has been arrested for having a loaded gun in his backpack at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, according to sheriff’s deputies. Officials found the gun after other students tipped off administrators. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: School choice is no longer an educational aberration; it’s now the norm. To criticize the Polk County superintendent for recognizing that and trying to learn more about it at a conference is unfortunate. Lakeland Ledger. If we want to provide a quality education to every student in our public school system, testing methods to determine eligibility for gifted programs need to be revised and implemented across the country sooner rather than later. Sabina Valery, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Guadalupe Center’s E.G. Salisbury Tutor Corps Summer Academy bridges the gap between high school and college with guidance, tutoring and teaching skills needed to succeed in college, like time management and priority-setting. Robert Spano, Naples Daily News. What if we were to envision a a K-12 schooling system that benefits from disorder, or is anti-fragile under the concept developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Morning Star School, a K-12 school in Jacksonville for students with learning and intellectual disabilities, attention deficit disorders and autism spectrum disorders, has received a gift of $250,000 from Delores Barr Weaver. The money will go toward building a new high school. WJXT. The lobbying firm Ballard Partners has donated $50,000 to the Foundation for Leon County Schools to help needy students and their families. Tallahassee Democrat. Stephen Simpson, the owner of the asset management company S2 Groups, has paid off the $2,564.47 debt that students owed the Escambia County School District for unpaid school lunches. Pensacola News Journal.

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