For school boards, representing parents raises the question: Which ones?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Sunlake High School students arrive at school during the first day of school for Pasco County Students in August 2021. The school board is trying to find a way to get all buses to school on time daily.
Sunlake High School students arrive at school during the first day of school for Pasco County Students in August 2021. The school board is trying to find a way to get all buses to school on time daily. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Nov. 1, 2021

Groups of parents across Florida and nation have begun asserting themselves more than in recent history, demanding that their school district officials better represent them and their interests. And the subject matter has extended beyond the contentious politics of masks and race theory to other topics that have daily consequences for children. In each instance, though, school board members are finding it difficult to stand up for all parents, as they often don’t agree. Read on for more on that story and other Florida education news.

The Pasco County School Board faces a vote on whether to change start times for every school in the district. Parents — and staff members — have indicated both opposition and support for the proposal, making it clear to several board members that whatever they do will leave someone unhappy.

The Hillsborough County School Board is preparing to redraw its member districts. Officials are attempting to rebalance population numbers without diluting diversity.

Coronavirus concerns

The pandemic led more Florida school students to use virtual education. That shift has prompted some officials to consider altering the state’s student funding model to account for such choices, the News Service of Florida reports.

Mask lawsuits keep moving through Florida courts. A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal said it appeared the Alachua and Duval school districts violated state law with their strict mask mandates, but stopped short of finding against them. Instead, the panel ordered lower courts to quickly take up the cases brought by parents seeking an order forcing the districts to comply, the News Service of Florida reports.

The University of Florida has told employees to be vaccinated or submit a religious exception. Justifying that religious-based exemption isn’t as easy as it might sound, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested a special legislative session to deal with mask and vaccine mandates. School districts are among the targets of the new rules the governor seeks.

Hot topics

Academic freedom. The University of Florida has blocked three faculty members from testifying in a court case challenging the state’s new voting law, saying their testimony might conflict with the university’s interest, the Associated Press reports. • The university announced Sunday that the professors could participate if they are unpaid and do it during their off hours, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Field trip controversy: A Broward County community rallied behind a local school and the area restaurant students visited. Social media had been blazing with criticism that a School Board member joined children on a field trip to the business that critics labeled a “gay bar,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. (Subscription required)

Bus driver shortage: Some Hillsborough County parents are getting frustrated that their children cannot get to state competitions because of a lack of drivers, WFTS reports. They’re calling for higher pay and other possible solutions. • The president of Lee County’s school bus driver union retired in the midst of negotiations, WINK reports. • A rumored bus driver “sick out” never materialized in Seminole County, WFTV reports.

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Challenged materials: The Orange County school district has removed a graphic novel dealing with the author’s gender identity and sexuality after a parent complained, WOFL reports. • An Okaloosa County high school teacher who showed students portions of an R-rated movie will not face criminal charges, despite parents contending the teacher exposed children to pornography, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. Sheriff’s investigators disputed the parents’ allegations.

Other school news

Eastern Polk County is having trouble keeping up with its student growth. The school district is looking into adding a middle school building on the campus of an elementary school that recently opened with more than 1,000 students, the Ledger reports.

Sarasota County school cafeterias are running low on supplies. Workers have had to make emergency Costco runs to ensure they have enough in stock, the Herald-Tribune reports.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Rollins College unveiled a statue honoring famous alumnus Fred Rogers, who changed childhood for so many, the Associated Press reports.

Stop making threats. Flagler County schools are interrupted by near daily threats of violence on social media that, while baseless, prompt investigations and use up law enforcement time, Flagler Live reports.

From the police blotter ... A Duval County school’s teacher of the year was arrested on accusations of physically abusing a student, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Before you go ... Here’s hoping everyone had a fun Halloween. As a special day after treat, check out Billie Eilish’s lovely version of “Sally’s Song” from Nightmare Before Christmas.

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