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Parent rights debate looms as Florida grapples with masks, books, race and gender

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Parents and children arrive at Egypt Lake Elementary School for the first day of school for Hillsborough County students in August. Parents' role in education means different things to different parents as the debate over their rights continued in Florida.
Parents and children arrive at Egypt Lake Elementary School for the first day of school for Hillsborough County students in August. Parents' role in education means different things to different parents as the debate over their rights continued in Florida. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Nov. 30, 2021

It’s back to school after a well deserved Thanksgiving break. Here’s a collection of some of the Florida education news that published over the week, as we catch up and ease back into the usual schedule. Today, that includes some potentially interesting discussions about bills in the state Legislature. Read on for the latest on the hot topics.

Parent rights: Florida parents say they want expanded rights in their children’s schooling. What that means depends on who you ask.

Book bans: The graphic novel Gender Queer was removed from another Florida school system. Pinellas County officials deemed the title as inappropriate for some grade levels because of the sexual nature of some of the content.

Freedom of speech: The University of Florida moved to escape accusations that it did not respect faculty academic freedom. Officials issued a report stating that it would take steps to assure professors’ ability to testify as experts in lawsuits.

Teacher shortage: The Pinellas County school district has partnered with USF to attract more Black males to the profession. • The Hillsborough County school district signed 21 USF education majors to become middle school math teachers.

Mask mandates: A Brevard County family became Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prime example of why forced masking in schools in inappropriate. Law enforcement investigation into the family’s claims of inappropriate actions by their daughter’s school uncovered false statements and staged photos, Florida Today reports. (Subscription required) • DeSantis continued to say the school crossed the line in its actions, Florida Politics reports. • The political fight over masking remains red hot, Fox News reports. • The legal battle over the issue also continues, though some parents are asking the courts to dismiss a case as moot because of new state law, the News Service of Florida reports.

Race relations: A Volusia County teen was forced to choose between his cultural hairstyle and his participation in JROTC. His family says he was discriminated against and is considering whether to file a federal complaint, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Gender issues: A St. Johns County school district’s lawsuit over transgender students’ bathroom use has become a national flash point. Forty states have joined the fray on one side or the other, the News Service of Florida reports.

Employee pay: A Volusia County school paraprofessional told his School Board that its pay was so low that he is homeless, raising new questions about the larger issue of poverty in America, the Washington Post reports.

Teacher discipline: A Flagler County teacher has been fired amid accusations of ethical improprieties. An investigation revealed the teacher had an inappropriate relationship with a student, including paying her almost $6,000, Flagler Live reports.

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School fights and threats: The mayor of DeBary in Voluia County has asked law enforcement and school officials to step up efforts to tamp down an increase in middle school violence in the community, WFTV reports.

High school sports recruiting: A Pasco County private Catholic school faces three years of sanctions for its football, basketball and baseball programs because of several instances of improper student recruiting.

NIMBY: Residents in an upscale Palm Beach County neighborhood complained that an elementary school’s rebuilt play areas and fields were too close to their property line. The administration authorized an 8-foot privacy wall along the property, contrary to district practices and without School Board approval, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Today in Tallahassee: The Senate Education Committee convenes at 12:30 p.m. to consider 10 bills, including ones related to “Hope Scholarships” and required instruction. • The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets at 3:30 p.m., where it will debate SJR 244 to make school board elections partisan. • The House Commerce Committee gathers at 4 p.m. for a discussion about school concurrency issues.

Before you go ... That video the other day of Laura Ingraham struggling to comprehend that there’s a Netflix show called You conjured the famous Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on first?” Did it get you thinking about other slapstick routines, too? What about this one?

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