Florida debates parents’ rights in schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
State Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, introduces a bill to extend parental rights in public schools to the Florida House Education & Employment Committee on Jan. 20, 2022.
State Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, introduces a bill to extend parental rights in public schools to the Florida House Education & Employment Committee on Jan. 20, 2022. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published Jan. 21, 2022

The big story: Florida Republican lawmakers have gone all in for parental rights.

Legislative leaders have fast-tracked several measures aimed at expanding parents’ authority within the schools, placing them on committee agendas mere hours after they get published. People with concerns are scrambling to respond, raising questions and objections to some of the specifics within the bills.

Some of those details include a provision to prevent elementary schools from having classroom discussions about gender identity, and, in another measure, a proposal to eliminate school board member salaries.

The House Education and Employment Committee debated a couple of the items on Thursday. Read about what happened here. More from Florida Politics, Capitol News.

Also in Tallahassee ... Discussion continues over whether to allow school districts to mandate cameras in classrooms. Teacher organizations are blasting the idea, WTVJ reports.

Big court cases

A St. Johns County lawsuit about transgender student rights in schools is becoming the national trial case on the issue. The federal Department of Justice will argue on behalf of the student, the News Service of Florida reports.

A group of parents whose children have disabilities continues its fight against Florida’s ban on school mask mandates. A federal judge allowed their revised complaint to advance, the News Service of Florida reports.

Some Duval County parents sued their district to stop its mask mandate. Though the issue is now moot, the judge ruled in favor of the parents, WJXT reports.

Coming to a court soon ... The Brevard County school district intends to start referring parents of chronically truant students to court on misdemeanor charges, WFTV reports.

Hot topics

Top teachers: Armwood High School biology teacher Laura Widerberg was named Hillsborough County’s 2022 Teacher of the Year. • Polk County’s new Teacher of the Year is special education curriculum coach Ashley Brannon, the Ledger reports.

Race lessons: The Osceola County school district is working on a formal ban of “critical race theory.” Its policy would mimic state rule, the Osceola News-Gazette reports.

School funding: The Marion County School Board planned to ask voters whether to renew a local property tax that supports general operations such as music programs and school safety, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Staffing shortages: Leon County schools are running low on substitute teachers, but they’re not at the point where they need to close, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • Gulf County school district officials said they won’t rule out canceling classes for another “wellness day” if staff absences become too great, the Port St. Joe Star reports.

Coronavirus concerns: Okeechobee County discontinued contact tracing for school-aged children, WPTV reports. • The Palm Beach County school district introduced a “Test to Know” policy, which would provide school-based virus testing for students who have been exposed to a positive case, if the parents agree, WPBF reports.

More school news

Brrrr. The Escambia County school district canceled classes and activities for Friday in advance of wintry weather, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

The Lake Wales charter school district is looking for a superintendent. Its candidate list is down to five, the Ledger reports.

The Seminole County School Board is reviewing the shooting that took place at a local high school. Officials are discussing how to improve responses to such incidents, WKMG reports.

A Leon County high school principal was suspended for misuse of AP funds. An administrative law judge upheld the action, which the principal said he will appeal, Tallahassee Reports reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is right here.

Before you go ... Jelly cam!

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