Florida’s ‘critical race theory’ debate remains in play, even during the school mask battle

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Mark Johnson, who is running for Hernando County School Board District I, speaks against critical race theory training for teachers in the county at Northcliffe Baptist Church's Family Life Center in Spring Hill  on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.
Mark Johnson, who is running for Hernando County School Board District I, speaks against critical race theory training for teachers in the county at Northcliffe Baptist Church's Family Life Center in Spring Hill on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 27, 2021

So much time has gone into Florida’s school mask wars in the past several days, we might forget the state has other cultural battles happening in the education system, too. Some of the same people fighting for mask freedom also are pushing to ensure there’s no “critical race theory” in classrooms. One Tampa Bay area school district is living that debate. Read on for that story and more Florida education news. And don’t forget — the ruling in the court case on school masks comes at 10 a.m. You can watch here.

The Hernando County school district insists it isn’t teaching CRT. There’s a group of residents who aren’t buying the district’s statements.

On mask mandates

School boards oversee the local schools. That didn’t stop St. Johns County residents from going to their County Commission to complain about school mask rules, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Not all mask mandates are the same. The 10 districts that have defied the state rules have some differences in their approaches, Florida Phoenix reports.

Are students sent home because of mask rule violations? The Department of Education wants daily details when it happens in Alachua County, the Gainesville Sun reports. Superintendent Carlee Simon responded late in the day.

Moms for Liberty has played a key role in fighting district mask rules. Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler has been instrumental in the group, including pushing for the parent bill of rights law that the governor has invoked to prevent district mandates, the Herald-Tribune reports.

In some places, the pushback isn’t so severe. Miami-Dade County superintendent Alberto Carvalho said his district of more than 300,000 students had received about 10 complaints over its mask mandate, WFOR reports.

Florida’s federal elected officials aren’t getting involved in the state’s school mask battle. They called it a waste of time, the Miami Herald reports.

Lawyers made their final arguments in the state school masking lawsuit on Thursday. Judge John Cooper said they gave him plenty to think about, the News Service of Florida reports. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’d appeal if he loses, WKMG reports.

School districts are looking at additional lawsuits. Some might unite to fight for their legal rights, the Sun-Sentinel reports. More from WPBF. • The Alachua County School Board voted to consider a court challenge against the state. Its newest member, a recent DeSantis appointee, was the lone opponent, the Gainesville Sun reports.

There’s also the federal path. Disability groups in Florida, Texas and other states are looking to the federal courts to argue that a ban on mask mandates violates the civil rights of children with special needs, Politico reports.

More coronavirus concerns

No field trips for you. The pandemic led to their cancellation in Okaloosa County, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • Escambia County schools also called off student trips, as well as assemblies, volunteer visits and other activities, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Another game bites the dust. The home opener for a Brevard County high school football team was canceled amid large numbers of quarantined players, WKMG reports.

The Collier County school district surpassed 500 reported positive virus cases among students and staff. It didn’t reach that number last year until December, the Naples Daily News reports.

Case numbers are up in St. Johns County too. The superintendent said there’s no immediate danger of schools closing down, WJXT reports.

An Indian River County elementary school closed because of rising quarantine numbers. Students will learn remotely until they return after Labor Day, TC Palm reports.

Are schools contributing to the virus spread? Experts say they’re only part of the equation, USA Today reports.

Other school news

A Bay County high school saw 89 percent of its AICE students graduate with the advanced diploma. It marked the school’s highest pass rate in the program since its inception there, the Panama City News Herald reports.

A Broward County schools communication official helped organize a rally in support of former superintendent Robert Runcie. She’s now been subpoenaed in the perjury case against Runcie, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

From the police blotter ... A Miami-Dade County school security monitor was arrested on a child abuse charge over allegations he punched a student in the shoulder, WSVN reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Spiderman. Dr. Strange. Multiverse. Who could ask for anything more?

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.