Thursday, December 14, 2017
Education

Legislature toughens rules for unregulated children's homes

TALLAHASSEE — In the last gasps of the 60-day legislative session, lawmakers moved to impose new requirements on unlicensed children's homes Friday after a Tampa Bay Times investigation uncovered abuse last year.

A priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, HB 7129 passed the Senate and House and is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott.

It was the last bill lawmakers passed and was entangled by unrelated amendments added at the last minute.

The bill "was important to us," said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. "We wanted to make sure that took place before session came to a close. We're glad that the Senate worked with us, and we brought it in for a landing."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, adds more oversight of religious homes and boarding schools, some of which the Times found flew under state scrutiny or remained in operation after the state cited them for violations.

The measure makes modest changes to disclosure requirements for the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies, the private, nonprofit accrediting group for homes that have opted to take advantage of a religious exemption from licensing.

The Times investigation uncovered cases of troubled teens sent to homes where former residents said they faced severe punishments, including being kept in secluded rooms for days, tackled and sat on by other residents, forced to eat cigarettes they were caught smoking, whipped with switches and forced to stand up so long they urinated on themselves.

Under current law, the Department of Children and Families does not have authority to regulate or inspect the unlicensed homes.

Among other changes, the bill adds a 24-hour reporting requirement for FACCCA to inform the state of incidents at homes that threaten harm to children in violation of state law; reduces from 30 days to three days the time for which FACCCA must tell the state of homes operating without legally required credentials; and allows DCF to find the group up to $250 per violation for failing to comply with state policy.

The bill also makes changes to boarding school regulations. It clarifies accreditation requirements for the schools, adds more reporting requirements to the state and mandates background checks of employees or contractors that deal directly with students.

The reforms bounced back and forth between the chambers as lawmakers worked toward a final compromise. Joyner allowed senators to add three amendments to the bill, one of which stalled its passage.

The amendment, dealing with neighborhood improvement districts, was opposed by House Republicans and stripped from the bill.

The House approved the measure 110-6 before sending it back to the Senate, where members approved the bill unanimously.

Comments

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Caitlin Gille grew up in a union household in Wisconsin, where her mom was a long-time teacher in the small city of Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee.She was accustomed to seeing educators advocating for their working conditions and pay, having a sea...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Published: 12/12/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17

Pasco class notes for Dec. 15

School Calendar• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middle High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17