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Florida schools face scandal, controversy as year winds down

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Anti-mask demonstrators stand along Forest Hill Blvd. outside the Palm Beach County School District offices during an April school board meeting. Mask protests continue to gain steam across Florida, and some districts are starting to give in.
Anti-mask demonstrators stand along Forest Hill Blvd. outside the Palm Beach County School District offices during an April school board meeting. Mask protests continue to gain steam across Florida, and some districts are starting to give in. [ GREG LOVETT, THE PALM BEACH POST | Palm Beach Post ]
Published May 10
Updated May 10

Apparently, it’s that time of year when controversial subjects surface in Florida schools. And no, we’re not talking about testing. With classes nearing an end, districts are coping with dress code concerns, allegations of misused funds, claims of racism and more. Of course, masks are in the mix. Read on for these stories and other Florida education news.

‘We’re not in the 1950s anymore.’ Pasco County is one of the latest sites to initiate a conversation about rewriting the guidelines about what to wear in school.

The Hillsborough County school district has another fire to deal with. A resident has filed a complaint that superintendent Addison Davis misused public funds. The School Board has hired outside counsel to investigate. • Meanwhile, the board’s chairwoman announced the district’s financial crisis might be averted with the arrival of federal stimulus money.

The Keys are coping with racism. The Monroe County school district has launched an investigation into complaints that a 13-year-old girl was called the n-word while at school, the Florida Keys Weekly reports.

Law enforcement reviewed video of a Hendry County principal paddling a 6-year-old student. The state attorney decided not to file charges, WFLA reports. The girl’s mother is still seeking justice, the NY Post reports.

How about a book controversy? A Broward County school called off a reading assignment after complaints the novel depicted police officers as racists and liars, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The district is looking into other places the book was used, and why.

And a yearbook recall. It involved edited photos of the Escambia County high school student who faces criminal charges on accusations she fixed the homecoming court election, reports.

Here’s one for those who fear sharing too much information with the schools. Cyber criminals hacked into Brevard County school district accounts, accessing data of more than 10,000 people, Florida Today reports.

Of course, masks. People continue to push back against school mask mandates. Palm Beach County parents protested ongoing mask requirements in schools, as the district scaled back many of its rules, WPTV reports. • A face-off is expected as the Polk County School Board discusses the future of masks when it meets this week, the Ledger reports. • Things got ugly in Santa Rosa County, where residents made anti-Asian comments at the School Board chairwoman, who is Chinese American, during the board’s mask debate, the Washington Post reports. • At one Sarasota County school, students preparing to perform “The Little Mermaid” on stage were told an hour ahead of showtime they’d have to wear masks. Their parents intervened, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Florida State University said mask use indoors will be recommended but no longer required, WTXL reports. • Marion County schools announced masks will be voluntary outdoors, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Other school news

With graduation, signs of getting back to normal. The University of South Florida celebrated its graduates with in-person ceremonies. • The University of Tampa held a virtual event, after which more than 200 students attended a separate in-person commencement. • Alachua County seniors will get four tickets for guests to attend their graduations, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Florida has new academic standards coming into effect. Sarasota and Manatee county schools are working on how to roll them out in the youngest grades, the Herald-Tribune reports.

One of Coral Springs’ charter schools is showing its age. Officials are talking about relocating the school rather than investing in renovations, Coral Springs Talk reports.

Union action gets you only so far. Jackson County teachers union president Dave Galloway retires his post to seek a School Board seat, Foster Folly News reports.

Who wants to be FSU’s next president? Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran has applied, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

From the police blotter ... A Pasco County teacher was arrested on allegations of grabbing a student and throwing him across the room, WTSP reports. • A Hillsborough County high school teacher was arrested on accusations of having a sexual relationship with a student, WFLA reports.

Before you go ... For those of you seeking more fun animal videos, here’s one dog who knows what she likes.