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Florida school boards remain hot spots for culture wars

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Fifth from the left, Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union and a group including parents of Wilton Manors Elementary School students, stand in support of a recent field trip chaperoned by School Board member Sarah Leonardi to nearby Rosie's Bar & Grill.
Fifth from the left, Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union and a group including parents of Wilton Manors Elementary School students, stand in support of a recent field trip chaperoned by School Board member Sarah Leonardi to nearby Rosie's Bar & Grill.
Published Nov. 4, 2021|Updated Nov. 4, 2021

National elections this week have signaled that parents have decided to take a stand on controversial issues such as racism and pandemic protocols through the lens of education. They’ve focused their attention against candidates and elected officials they say don’t represent their point of view, and often ignore them. They’ve largely downplayed any suggestion that they’ve harassed or threatened anyone. Some officials continue to say the harassment is real. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

The Republican push on an “parents rights” education-themed agenda looks likely to continue into 2022. Top party leaders say they expect to use the playbook in Florida, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Broward County board member Sarah Leonardi says she’s been bombarded with hate since visiting an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant with elementary school students. She contends it’s a microcosm of what’s happening across the nation, Insider reports.

Hot topics

Holocaust lessons: A Palm Beach County principal fired after questioning the facts of the Holocaust sued to get his job back. He lost, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Forgotten African-American cemeteries: A state lawmaker has filed legislation to include the history of the cemeteries in the public school curriculum, Florida Politics reports.

Book challenge: A comic book-style memoir about the author’s growing up non-gender conforming has been removed from Orange County schools shortly after it also became controversial in Brevard County schools, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (Subscription required)

Missing students: Monroe County school district officials worry as truancy rises, Keys Weekly reports.

Diversity and equity: The Flagler County School Board removed the word “equity” from its goals, replacing it with the term “student success,” Flagler Live reports.

Mask mandates

A Hillsborough County mom sued to get her kids back on their public school volleyball teams after leaving the schools over their mask mandates. She won the first round, allowing the kids to take the court this week, Florida Politics reports.

The Palm Beach County school district will end its strict mask mandate two weeks early. Students will still have to submit an opt-out form if they choose not to wear one, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Several districts have started to walk back their facial covering policies as case loads decreased. Education commissioner Richard Corcoran praised them on social media, hinting the sanctions against some of them might go away as a result.

UF controversy

A growing number of University of Florida faculty are coming forth to say they were stopped from testifying as experts. The same didn’t happen to a Florida International University professor who testified on behalf of the state’s controversial voting law, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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National experts have advised UF officials to reverse actions restricting professors’ ability to testify. The state university system’s board chairman said he supports free speech and called for further review of how the university had acted, the Miami Herald reports.

Other school news

The Flagler County School Board asked county commissioners to double the local school impact fee. Commissioners postponed a decision, raising questions about the district’s numbers, Flagler Live reports.

Martin County school district officials are reviewing possible attendance zone changes to ease campus crowding. They’re not decided on whether to focus on the most affected schools, or tackle a more far-reaching approach, TC Palm reports.

A Lee County School Board member faces renewed criticism for using district staff to help distribute a video of her defending herself. At least one of her colleagues has called on Chris Patricca to resign, WFTX reports.

A new homeless camp is slated to open a few hundred feet from an Escambia County high school. A School Board member says it’s too close, and is calling on Pensacola city officials to reconsider the location, WEAR reports.

From the court docket ... A Volusia County parent is suing the school district over allegations that her child with autism has been mistreated in school, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

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

Before you go ... Imagine Jurassic Park without dinosaurs. Would giant cats suffice?

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