DeSantis considering college students’ ‘bill of rights,’ court limits liability, scholarships and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Students’ bill of rights: College students who are threatened with expulsion for violating school policies by attending large parties should be protected with a “bill of rights,” Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed Thursday. “I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said during a news conference called to discuss health issues. “That’s what college kids do.” He said the state would explore options, but gave no details. Administrators at the 12 state universities have set social-distancing policies, with punishments attached, to try to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus on campuses. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. WMFE. WTVJ.

Scholarship program growth: The Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which was created by the Legislature in 2019 to eliminate a waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, now has 34,000 students enrolled and is expected to grow to about 37,000. In its first year, it was capped at 18,000 students. Funding for the program comes from the state, and enables low-income and working-class parents to send their children to private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the programs. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: The Florida Supreme Court rules for the Broward County School District over liability claims for the Parkland school shooting, Duval County doctors say school coronavirus cases are on a troubling upward trend, and Volusia County announces its intention to end the practice of teachers instructing in-person and online learners simultaneously. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: Police say a teenage relative has been arrested in the shooting death of Miami Senior High School head football coach Corey Smith on Monday. The suspect has not been named, but the only person known to be home with Smith when the shooting occurred was his 15-year-old nephew, who has been living there since his father was shot to death by police during a robbery last December. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Broward: Florida’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that the 2018 shooting deaths of 17 people and wounding of 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 was a single event. The decision means that the most the Broward County School Board will have to pay victims is $300,000, or less than $9,000 apiece. Their attorneys argued that each shooting was a separate event, which would have made each victim eligible for up to $200,000 in compensation. “I’m disheartened once again to see that the best interests and hearts of those who lost loved ones or were injured are not protected,” said school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed. “A financial gain will never suffice for injury and suffering, but the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against us leaves me saddened and disappointed.” Superintendent Robert Runcie said, “Today’s Florida Supreme Court ruling affirms prior court interpretations of the Sovereign Immunity Statute, which provides that a multiple gunshot incident is a single incident under the statute. It is important to remember that this decision in no way devalues the lives of those injured or killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or the harm suffered by their families.” News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Schools have been open four days, and the district is now reporting its first positive coronavirus cases. One student at Palm Beach Gardens High and another at Citrus Cove Elementary in suburban Boynton Beach were confirmed to be carrying the virus by the health department this week. District officials are declining to say whether the students contracted the virus at school, or how many people have been advised to quarantine. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. The attorney representing a group of teachers who have sued to stop school reopenings is now demanding the recall of six school board members who supported the district’s plan. A judge is expected to rule soon on the lawsuit. WPTV.

Duval: Doctors in the community said the number of coronavirus cases in the schools is troubling because it’s been increasing week by week. “The question is if you take a picture of this point in time, you may take a look at it and say, ‘Oh, things look okay, and the big picture is not so bad.’ But if you look at it over time, the trend is such that it’s increasing,” said county Medical Society Foundation president Dr. Sunil Joshi. “We don’t want is for it to keep increasing through October and November because then it will become much more of a significant number.” Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, University of Florida Health Jacksonville chief of community pediatrics, concurred, and added, “The distribution of cases among students between 5 and 19 is about equal. So that’s telling us that this myth that younger children are not exposed to and/or demonstrating COVID positivity is just wrong.” WJXT.

Pinellas: The Plato Academy in Palm Harbor has been closed since Tuesday after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials expect the school to reopen today. Fifty-six schools in the county have now reported COVID-19 cases. Florida Politics.

Pasco: District officials projected in the spring, before the coronavirus pandemic, that enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year would go up by 1,933 students. Instead, 504 more students have reported since schools opened Aug. 24. Only three traditional schools are reporting higher enrollment than last year. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Decisions to close schools because of the coronavirus are determined by situations, not metrics, representatives from the school district and health officials told county officials at a briefing Thursday. Two schools have been closed this school year because of multiple coronavirus cases. Florida Today. The National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s largest Native American rights group, has endorsed the decision to change Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School’s Indian mascot. “The use of ‘Native American’ sports mascots, logos or symbols perpetuates stereotypes of American Indians that are very harmful,” wrote Ian Record, vice president of the group. The school board has scheduled a vote Nov. 19. Florida Today.

Seminole: More than 4,500 county students have chosen to return to the classrooms instead of continuing with remote learning when the second quarter begins in October. That will leave about 25,000 students as online learners. Statewide, about 60 percent of students are learning in classrooms. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Volusia: The district has announced an ambitious plan to accommodate high school teachers who have complained about being asked to teach both in-person and online students at the same time. That practice, known as concurrent or simultaneous teaching, will be eliminated starting Nov. 9. The move will require changes for most classes and students’ schedules. “Blowing up a master schedule in the middle of the school year — I don’t know anybody who’s ever done that,” said Clint Griffin, chief of information technology. “We’ve talked to other districts and they almost, like, hang up the phone on us when we mention we’re about to go down this path.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Cheryl Salerno, the former principal at Mainland High School who retired under pressure after giving freshman students a “placebo” Advanced Placement test without informing them last year, is suing the school board for breaching her contract and violating her right of due process. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: District officials have presented school board members with a proposed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy. It specifically names Hispanics, Latinos, African Americans, Caribbean Americans and “persons of other African descent,” English-language learners, students with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community as disenfranchised groups. “Equity as an outcome is achieved when an individual’s success and well-being is no longer predicated by any social, cultural or economic factor,” the policy states. The board is asking for input from the community before taking a vote on the proposal by the end of October. Bradenton Herald. A student at Freedom Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus, and four people were sent into quarantine because of their exposure to the student. Palmetto High School recorded its third positive case since the school year started, and 26 people were asked to quarantine. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: The district has reported 63 cases of the coronavirus so far this year — 44 students and 19 employees. Officials are not releasing the number of people who are quarantining. Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: A group of students from Sarasota High, Booker High and the Pine View School are lobbying the Sarasota County Commission to approve a resolution for an “equitable and affordable energy system powered by 100 percent clean, renewable energy by the year 2050.” The Sarasota Students 4 Climate is part of the international group Fridays For Future, which advocates action against climate change. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Father John Belmonte, the new superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Venice, talks about how the school year has gone and his vision for the 15 schools and 4,777 students in the diocese. redefinED.

St. Lucie: The principal of the Independence Classical Academy in Fort Pierce has resigned less than a month after the new charter school opened. Courtney Paschal Purnell blasted the school’s cofounder and director, Sandy Krischke, saying she “willfully committed academic stolen valor” and “misrepresented” her certifications. On the school’s website, Krischke states she is certified to teach broad social sciences in grades 5-9. But the Florida Department of Education website shows no certifications for Krischke. Marcia Cully, a former St. Lucie County school principal, has been named interim principal. TCPalm.

Leon: Against the wishes of some school board members, the district will soon begin taking requests from parents to switch the form of learning their children is using. Children can be moved from remote learning to in-person instruction, or vice versa. Whatever changes parents request will start Nov. 3 and continue through Jan. 15. “I worry about the teachers who are just now getting their sea legs underneath them,” said board chair DeeDee Rasmussen. Her colleague Rosanne Wood added, “The teachers are very nervous about losing the social distancing we’ve established.” Meanwhile, 16,500 Chromebooks the district ordered have shipped, Superintendent Rocky Hanna told board members. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Okaloosa: Members of Crestview High School’s Bulldog Pack, a spirit-building group, have apologized for the use of the “Trail of Tears” term in a sign for tonight’s football game against the Choctawhatchee High School Indians. The post showed two students holding a sign that warned, “Hey Indians get ready to live in a Trail of Tears.” Between 1830 and 1850, about 3,500 Native Americans died when they were forced to relocate from their land east of the Mississippi River to the area that later became Oklahoma. The journey became known as the Trail of Tears. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Bay: The county is getting a $500,000 grant from the Florida Housing Finance Corp. to help homeless families with school-aged children find housing and other services. School district officials have already identified the families who will receive the help, which includes up to 24 months of rental assistance, academic help for students and access to community-based support services. Panama City News Herald.

Monroe: About 150 hot spots are being made available for students without Internet access through the efforts of the Marathon Rotary Club and a grant from the Ocean Reef Community Foundation. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: State colleges and universities are being told to start planning alternate fall graduation ceremonies because in-person commencements will be prohibited. “While we understand the disappointment this may cause, universities were creative in their spring and summer commencement festivities, and each of them found ways to celebrate their graduates and their achievements. We are confident that the fall graduates will be equally celebrated,” the memo from the State University System said, in part. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: Music teachers say the limits of online learning for a hand’s-on subject and the lack of instruments to go around due to safety precautions are forcing teachers to use digital music and virtual performances. Many said even after the pandemic ends, they expect such changes to continue. WUSF. Education experts say the pandemic and subsequent remote learning are worsening the gap between wealthy and low-income schools. Politico Florida. A survey shows that about 17 percent of U.S. parents have delayed sending their children to preschool or kindergarten because of the pandemic. Associated Press.

Disciplining teachers: A change in rules approved this week by the Florida Board of Education will accelerate the process of investigating and potentially revoking the licenses of teachers accused of misconduct. The rule calls for the Department of Education to make a note of accused teachers in its certification system within 24 hours of an accusation, and authorizes the education commissioner to revoke the teacher’s license or bar the teacher from interacting with students within 30 days after the investigation. Fresh Take Florida.

Blue Ribbon schools: Eleven Florida schools were among the 367 nationally to receive National Blue Ribbon School honors from the U.S. Department of Education. Schools are chosen for their students’ academic performance or their progress in closing achievement gaps. Capital Soup.

Opinions on schools: Pinellas County’s top school officials don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth about the difficulties of teaching kids sitting in classrooms and those tuning in from home at the same time. They made that clear in recent days by refusing a request to survey teachers on simultaneous teaching, waving aside an opportunity to gather information about an important issue that has a profound impact on how much kids are learning. Tampa Bay Times. There is indeed a “rigor gap” in the mathematical preparation of Florida’s students for postsecondary education, and it’s this: Florida falls far short of the national average in the rate at which its high school students take courses in subjects like precalculus in a category more broadly called “advanced mathematics.” Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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