Medical marijuana: Many Florida school districts are defying the state law that allows students to use prescribed medical marijuana at schools. State law requires all school districts to have a written policy governing medical marijuana. But that same law exempts schools from accommodating on-campus use of medical marijuana. So some districts are choosing to follow federal laws that still classify marijuana use of any kind illegal. “The voters approved keeping it away from schools and prisons,” says Mitchell Teitelbaum, attorney for the Manatee County School District. “But the Legislature amended it to allow students to use it. What we need is the state Legislature to provide clarity on what is allowed.” USA Today.
School security and more: As more schools open today and this week, districts continue to pull together their security plans, try to fill open teaching positions and refine their objectives for the year. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Key West Citizen. Citrus County Chronicle. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star-Banner. WFLA. WTSP. Leon County teachers talk about inspiration and offer advice to new teachers. Tallahassee Democrat.
Mental health services: School districts are getting millions of dollars from the state to offer students more mental health services. And while there are questions about student privacy, since they are required to disclose previous mental health issues, experts expect the benefits of the new initiative to be substantial and long-lasting. “It’s fantastic,” says Candice Crawford, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. “A lot of these children, and especially at-risk kids, tend to end up in the juvenile justice system without ever having been evaluated for mental health issues or given any services. And then people just write them off as bad. The long-term impact of this is going to be remarkable.” Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.
Reading scholarship rules: The Florida Department of Education releases draft rules for the new reading scholarship for struggling 3rd- and 4th-graders. Students who score below 3 in reading on their Florida Standards Assessments tests are eligible for up to $500 for tutoring or reading materials. Parents apply directly to the nonprofit scholarship-funding organization Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, then pay for the tutoring or reading materials and seek reimbursement. redefinED. Gradebook.
School security: Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students testify to the House Democratic Task Force on Gun Violence on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Both plead for “meaningful” gun legislation. “There’s been a lot of talk, especially around here, about putting America first,” said Stoneman Douglas junior Alfonso Calderon. “I agree, let’s put America first and put the gun lobbies and the NRA second. I don’t understand why this is such a difficult conversation to have.” Sun-Sentinel. Escambia County school officials will conduct random metal detector screenings at schools. WEAR. Holmes Beach and Palmetto appear likely to help the Manatee County School District pay for school resource officers, and Bradenton is now considering the request. Manatee County has said it won’t help. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Volusia County School Board is told it would need to hire 44 armed guards to cover every school for 2018-2019. The presentation of the final plan is scheduled at the June 12 board meeting. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A ban on backpacks is extended to all Manatee County high schools and middle schools for the final three days of the school year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Several St. Johns County School Board members say they think it’s law enforcement’s responsibility to provide security at schools. The board meets with county officials June 6 to discuss the options. St. Augustine Record.
Schools as shelters: A bill is filed that would require any K-12 school that receives construction funding from the state to be available as an emergency shelter or, if it doesn’t meet the requirements to be a shelter, for any other use officials think is necessary. That requirement would include charter schools. H.B. 779 was filed by state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. No companion bill has yet been filed in the Senate. Gradebook.
School choice growth: New research suggests that the growth of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program has not led to a corresponding increase in the number of schools that perform poorly academically. Urban Institute researchers conclude: “This analysis indicates that participation in the [tax credit scholarship] program has not shifted toward schools with weaker track records of improving student outcomes, as measured by two broad categorizations. But it provides less guidance on the ideal level of government regulation in private school choice programs.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. The program has grown from 50,000 low-income students receiving scholarships in 2012 to more than 100,000 this year. redefinED.
District consultant: The Duval County School Board will spend $480,000 for a consultant to help turn around eight struggling schools. Turnaround Solutions Inc. was founded by James Young, a former Duval principal with experience in turning around failing schools. Three of the schools have less than a year to boost their grades from the state, while the others have until the end of the 2018-2019 school year. If they don’t improve to at least a C grade, state law requires the district to close the schools or allow them to be taken over. Florida Times-Union.
Panel: Turn over school: An oversight committee at Oscar Patterson Elementary School is recommending that the struggling school be turned over to an outside manager. The Bay County school has gotten poor grades from the state the past two years, and under state law the district has to contract with an outside entity to manage the school, close it and transfer the students, or close it and reopen it as a charter school. The recommendation now goes to Superintendent Bill Husfelt. If he agrees with the recommendation, the district must have a signed contract with a management company by Jan. 31, 2018. Panama City News Herald.