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Parents, teachers call for end to school data sharing

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Alicia Willis, president of the Pasco County Council PTA, speaks out against student information and data sharing between the Pasco County Schools and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office during a Pasco School Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Land O' Lakes. At right is Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning.
Alicia Willis, president of the Pasco County Council PTA, speaks out against student information and data sharing between the Pasco County Schools and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office during a Pasco School Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Land O' Lakes. At right is Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 16, 2020

The Pasco County school district has received a great deal of attention from civil rights groups across the state and nation for its sharing of student data with the local Sheriff’s Office, which has used the information to identify who might be at risk of falling into crime. Concerns about the controversial initiative spilled over into the district’s School Board meeting on Tuesday. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

Teachers and parents filled the Pasco board meeting room to demand changes. They heard a spirited defense of the data collection and sharing program from the superintendent, while board members said little.

The swearing in took place weeks ago. Now former Hillsborough County School Board member Tamara Shamburger wants a judge to reinstall her to the post, alleging Henry “Shake” Washington shouldn’t have qualified for the ballot. Washington beat Shamburger by more than 10,000 votes. • In other election related news, a Hillsborough County judge rebuked three failed candidates — including one for School Board — over their call for a recount based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, Florida Politics reports.

The arrest of anti-mask advocates at a recent Pinellas County School Board meeting remains under investigation. Superintendent Mike Grego said both sides of the story need to be known before he recommends any further actions.

Coronavirus

They’re back. More than 80 percent of Marion County students are attending classes in person, up from 66 percent when the semester began, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • The number of in-person learners continues to grow in Volusia County, while many online students struggle, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Game off. The Polk County school district suspended all high school sports activities amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases, WKMG reports. More from the Ledger.

Want a longer break? No problem. The Columbia County school district made the final three days of classes before winter vacation optional, because of COVID-19 concerns, WKMG reports.

These Broward County online students thought something was amiss with their teacher. Now he’s under investigation by the school district over allegations he was watching a pornographic movie while teaching, the Miami Herald reports.

The Broward County school district has approved the use of gun-sniffing dogs at some schools, despite concerns by some members.
The Broward County school district has approved the use of gun-sniffing dogs at some schools, despite concerns by some members.

Student rights

Some Broward County School Board members worried that gun-sniffing dogs might target Black students. Still, the board approved a 90-day pilot project with the animals at four schools in Coconut Creek, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Two Palm Beach County student-athletes’ demonstration for racial equality gained national attention. More students planned to join the cause, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

The Flagler County School Board had resisted adding protections for “gender identity” to its anti-discrimination policy. Then its new chairman did an about face, Flagler Live reports.

Teacher pay

Let’s make a deal. Clay County teachers and district officials ended a months-long impasse in contract talks by arriving at a tentative pay raise agreement, WJXT reports.

Many school districts have struggled to boost veteran teacher pay with money provided by the state. Indian River County arrived at a “creative and convoluted” three-year plan to boost every educator, TC Palm reports.

Odds and ends

School for sale? The Alachua County school district considers selling an elementary school rather than renovating it, and moving the students to another campus that’s under construction, the Gainesville Sun reports.

A new charter high school in Okaloosa County needs to borrow money to build its campus. The County Commission agreed to serve as a conduit for bonds, assured it wouldn’t be at financial risk, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

The Florida Legislature is preparing to begin committee meetings in January. The Hillsborough County School Board set forth some priorities it wants lawmakers to consider. Suspending school grades topped the list, Bay News Nine reports.

It’s still award season for educators. Lee County announced its teacher of the year winner, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Four teacher of the year finalists were revealed in Sarasota County, the Sun reports.

Manatee County’s superintendent has a contract through June 2021. It includes a clause saying the School Board must notify her whether it will extend the terms by the end of December. The board hasn’t decided yet, the Herald-Tribune reports.

From the police blotter ... A Clay County school guardian was arrested on allegations he had cocaine in his vehicle on campus, the Florida Times-Union reports.

From the courts ... A federal appeals court ruled that Broward County students who survived the 2018 Parkland school shooting could not sue the school district for failing to protect them, as they were not in the custodial care of any of the named officials, Education Week reports.

Did you miss something? Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Musician John Prine died this year of complications from COVID-19. This week, the Gulfport, Fla., resident was named artist of the year by the Americana Music Association. Here’s his final recorded song, to remember him by.