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Florida braces for battle over race lessons in school

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown speaking after the 2021 legislative session, has lent his support to proposals that would restrict the way teachers teach U.S. history in Florida's public schools.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown speaking after the 2021 legislative session, has lent his support to proposals that would restrict the way teachers teach U.S. history in Florida's public schools. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published May 24
Updated May 24

The role of race in U.S. society and history remained a flashpoint for Floridians over the weekend, as people across the state assess a Department of Education rule proposal that would restrict teachers to teaching a prescribed version of American history. Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t hidden his preferences, and he restated his views as his administration’s plans became more widely known. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

DeSantis argued that “critical race theory” has no place in Florida’s public schools. He wants the lessons removed from all schools, regardless of the name they’re called, Florida Politics reports. The governor suggested that the instruction about race and its influence on politics, schooling and other aspects of society is ideological and teaches kids to hate their country, WFSU reports. And if lawmakers won’t address the issue, he told reporters, his administration will, the News Service of Florida reports.

The debate over race and equity is reverberating across the state. Palm Beach County school district officials face an outcry over their newly approved equity statement, with some parents decrying the language as racist, the Palm Beach Post reports. • The subject has tinged discussions over changing the names of Duval County schools that recognize Confederate soldiers, too, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Florida is not alone in this discussion. Georgia’s governor has taken a similar stance on lessons about race, National Review reports.

Coronavirus concerns

More on masks. Parents of students graduating from one Pasco County school are upset that masks will be required at commencement. One day later and they’d be optional. • Orange and Seminole county school boards will vote in June how to proceed with masks, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • The Brevard County school district announced masks will be voluntary after June 3, Florida Today reports.

President Biden pushed for billions in education funding relief. Florida Republicans criticized the president, but haven’t hesitated to use the money to pay for their priorities, Politico Florida reports.

Standardized testing has resumed in Florida and elsewhere. Experts say the results might be flawed, but will help identify areas where more instruction can help, News Talk Florida reports.

Schools slowly are returning to pre-COVID conditions. Colleges and universities in Sarasota and Manatee counties are the latest to return to full in-person activities, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Districts aim to make up for student learning losses through summer school programs. Leon County schools plan to offer meals and transportation to help students attend one of their eight offerings, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Florida schools opened sooner than most in the nation. Their leaders are offering advice on best practices to others, K-12 Dive reports.

Higher education

The University of Tampa guaranteed housing to incoming freshmen. Then it figured out how many freshmen actually planned to come in the fall.

Florida State University’s president search remains bogged in controversy. A search committee member claimed the process was conducted in secret and the decisions were made in advance of public meetings, Florida Politics reports. The search committee is standing behind its effort, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Meanwhile, the three finalists fielded questions from students as the Board of Trustees neared its May 24 expected selection, the Democrat reports.

Hot topics

Dress code: Fallout grows over a St. Johns County high school’s yearbook edits. Photos of more than 80 students — all girls — were altered to add more clothing, the St. Augustine Record reports. The story has made the national rounds, including NPR.

Teacher’s foot fetish: The former Hillsborough schools administrator caught up in a Rhode Island teacher scandal is now a former Providence superintendent. Harrison Peters, once a candidate for Hillsborough superintendent, was forced out of his latest position over his hiring of the teacher, the Boston Globe reports.

Indicted superintendent: Lawyers for indicted Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie offered their arguments against the charges. Prosecutors have ridiculed the attempt to show the charges are outside the grand jury’s scope, the Miami Herald reports.

Baker Act: Child advocates are cheering the passage of legislation that requires schools to notify parents before their children are sent for an involuntary psychiatric exam, WFSU reports.

Charter schools

The court battle continues over a 2018 law requiring school districts to share tax revenue with charter schools. The Palm Beach County school district is taking the issue to the state Supreme Court, the News Service of Florida reports.

Alachua County is getting a new charter school. It will combine academics with the arts, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Other school news

Which teachers will you remember 30 years from now? A foundation has started rewarding Sarasota County educators who have that “ripple effect,” the Herald-Tribune reports.

A helping hand. Two Sarasota-area nonprofits offer mental health support to schools and students, the Port Charlotte Sun reports.

A Broward County school security officer worked two jobs at one time. He received a written reprimand and was forced to give up one of the positions, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

From the police blotter ... A Pinellas County middle school teacher was arrested on allegations he sent sexually explicit material to a former student. • A Marion County teacher has been arrested in connection with a murder, WKMG reports.

Before you go ... If you don’t think race matters to kids, check out the Linda Lindas’ rocking response to a classmate. The Los Angeles-based teen punk band put this video out on Friday, and before the day was over had a new recording contract.