Charters security ruling: An administrative law judge rules that the Palm Beach County District must assign security officers to charter schools in order to comply with a state law passed last year. The school board had refused to provide officers for Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in the county. “(The law) clearly and unambiguously requires school boards and superintendents — not charter school operators — to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs [safe-school officers], with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies, to every public school within their respective jurisdictions, including charter schools,” wrote Judge John Van Laningham. He did not rule on who is responsible for paying for the officers. News Service of Florida.
Guns at schools: Two bills that widen the ability of people to have guns on the grounds of schools are approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee. H.B. 403 would allow people to carry concealed weapons in churches that also have schools on the same property, and H.B. 6005 would require school districts to allow anyone over 18 years old to store a firearm in their vehicles on school grounds. Both were supported by the National Rifle Association. The current law allows districts to prohibit guns at schools and their parking lots. News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.
K-12 funding concerns: Chief state economist Amy Baker tells House Appropriations Committee members that the three-year financial outlook for the state won’t cover expected budget growth in education and other critical areas. She suggests that the Legislature’s decisions on state spending and setting local property tax rates for K-12 education are the key for balancing spending, and is urging lawmakers to be cautious about spending projected surpluses. Gradebook.
School security law: Members of the Senate Education Committee say they expect to tweak the school safety act passed last spring, both to clarify the law and make it more manageable. Several speakers say they oppose any changes that would allow willing teachers to carry guns into schools, as recommended by the state panel that investigated the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Feb. 14. Politico Florida. Gradebook. The director of the state’s Office of Safe Schools, Damien Kelly, urges more fencing and single points of entry and better security systems for schools during testimony before the committee. Florida Politics.
Security at schools: The Broward County School District is spending $621,000 for a surveillance system that recognizes people, and watches and remembers their movements. The 116 cameras will be installed at 36 schools, mostly high schools. One is expected to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died in an attach last Feb. 14. Sun Sentinel. The Duval County School Board approves the creation of threat assessment teams for all schools. WJAX. Orange County is still trying to hire enough officers to cover all schools. Orlando Sentinel. South Florida parents and students talk about whether Florida’s new school safety requirements are making students feel safer in their schools. WLRN.
Teacher turnover: Teachers are leaving the St. Johns County School District at the highest rate in three years, according to district data. During the 2017-2018 school year, 243 of 3,216 teachers resigned, a rate of 7.5 percent. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. The Lake County School District has a teacher turnover rate of about 15 percent a year, and seven schools have rates of 40 percent or higher. District officials say they are working on a strategy to improve retention. Daily Commercial.
Shooting panel draft report: The 407-page draft report of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommends arming willing teachers and other employees in schools, and immediately taking practical measures to restrict access to schools and standardizing procedures for identifying dangerous students. The report criticizes the Broward County School District for not following basic security measures like locking doors, says the principal should be investigated for not insisting he be told about all threats, and concludes that Broward County deputies should have rushed into the school to confront the shooter Feb. 14. Seventeen people were shot to death and 17 others were wounded. The report, which is not final, will be delivered to the governor and Legislature by Jan. 1. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Capitol News Service. WLRN. Fort Myers News-Press. The commission releases transcripts of law enforcement officers detailing the chaos at the scene. Miami Herald. A judge rejects former Stoneman Douglas deputy Scot Peterson’s argument that he had “no legal duty” to protect the students and staff. Peterson was asking that a lawsuit filed by the family of a victim be dismissed. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Now that Ron DeSantis is the governor-elect, will he follow up on a campaign statement to remove Broward Sheriff Scott Israel for his agency’s failings during the shooting? Sun Sentinel. Who are school shooters, and why do they kill? Sun Sentinel.
Charter school closings: A watchdog organization reports that 38 percent of charters schools in Florida have closed since 2000, a failure rate that’s 7 percentage points higher than the national average. Of the 1,091 charter schools that have opened in Florida since 2000, 491 have closed (the state Department of Education disputes that number and says 389 have closed). David Armiak, a researcher for the Center For Media and Democracy in Wisconsin, calls the closure rate “alarming.” He says it raises questions about accountability for charter schools, which get funding from the state but have greater operational freedom than traditional public schools. Armiak also noted that the closures disproportionately affected minority students. Gradebook.
Effects of teacher turnover: A new study concludes that midyear teacher turnover has a negative impact on student learning, especially in schools that have large proportions of minority and low-income students. “While it is possible for turnover to be beneficial for school systems, an extensive body of research points to the ways that teacher turnover disrupts … the continuity of a child’s learning experiences, particularly in underserved schools,” write study authors Christopher Redding of the University of Florida and Gary Henry of Vanderbilt. The researchers studied data from 2008 to 2014 collected from of North Carolina schools. Chalkbeat.
School security: The Broward County School Board and the county have been awarded $1.2 million in grants from the Department of Justice to improve threat assessments and reporting, crisis interventions, training and mental health services. The grants were part of the $70 million awarded to U.S. school districts, law enforcement agencies and cities under the federal STOP School Violence Act. Education Week. The Pinellas County School District is emphasizing the personal side of school security by encouraging students to care for one another and recognize when a classmate is troubled. The strategy was developed by the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded by family members of students killed in the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut. Tampa Bay Times. The Osceola County School District is the latest to ban backpacks from after-school sporting events. School officials also say all bags would be subject to a search, and metal detecting wands could be used. Orlando Sentinel.
Legislative meetings: Florida Senate and House leaders say legislative committees will meet during the weeks of Dec. 11, Jan. 7, Jan. 22, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 19. No education bills have been filed yet, but it’s expected to again be a key and sometimes contentious issue. The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. Gradebook.