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Florida debates book bans in public schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Some parents in Florida who say they are concerned about students being indoctrinated about sex and "critical race theory" have successfully petitioned their local school districts to remove certain books from their libraries.
Some parents in Florida who say they are concerned about students being indoctrinated about sex and "critical race theory" have successfully petitioned their local school districts to remove certain books from their libraries. [ DREAMSTIME | Dreamstime ]
Published Jan. 27|Updated Jan. 27

The big story: It’s book banning.

Florida lawmakers haven’t been shy in advancing measures aimed at making it easier for the public to challenge the content of materials in school libraries and classrooms. To prod compliance, the Legislature has proposed cutting school board members’ pay.

They’ve done so at the bidding of conservative groups, some of which have taken to reading passages they consider pornographic at local school board meetings. In certain instances, the groups come with lists of books they want out of the schools. Many deal with LGBTQ topics.

Is the effort working?

In Polk County, the Ledger reports that officials visited middle and high schools to remove 16 titles that County Citizens Defending Freedom alleged violate state statutes on obscene materials. District officials said the books aren’t censored, just “quarantined” until a thorough review can occur.

Several districts around the state, including Pinellas County, have faced requests for books to be pulled from the shelves. Some have agreed, while others, such as Flagler County, have told parents they can control what their own children read but not others’ children.

Observers expect the drumbeat to grow louder on this issue as the Legislature continues to consider the concept of barring certain discussions in schools.

More hot topics

Race lessons: Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to stop lessons that promote the idea that anyone is inherently racist, with Democrats decrying any move to establish the “thought police,” the News Service of Florida reports. More from Florida Politics. • As Black History Month approaches, Volusia County residents urged their School Board not to shy from teaching the history in the face of battles over “critical race theory,” WOFL reports.

Gender issues: A Clay County family is suing the school district, claiming the schools hid meetings about their child’s gender identity crisis from them, WJAX reports. • Critics of legislation that would ban discussion in elementary schools about gender identity could drive away teachers, WJCT reports. • LGBTQ students met with Palm Beach County superintendent Michael Burke to talk about school safety issues, WPTV reports. • The Leon County School Board named a committee to finalize guidance for faculty and staff who are helping students deal with LGBTQ topics, WTXL reports.

Sexual assault: A lawyer for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence says schools need to do better investigating allegations, WFTS reports.

Coronavirus concerns: The Orange County school district announced it would no longer provide excused absences for students who stay home because of COVID-19, WKMG reports.

Mental health: The Palm Beach County school district received a $1 million grant to expand services to students, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Tallahassee action

A Senate committee questioned surgeon general nominee Dr. Joseph Ladapo in advance of his confirmation vote. Senate Democrats walked out of the meeting, dissatisfied with Ladapo’s evasion of questions about COVID-19 vaccines and masks. Upon his initial appointment, Ladapo issued rules forbidding schools from implementing strict mask mandates.

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School choice advocates rallied at the Capitol for expanded options. State lawmakers pledged to support them, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

A second Senate committee favored legislation that would move the state toward increased progress monitoring to assess student performance. The bill has one more committee stop before it would head to the full chamber, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee: The House Secondary Education subcommittee takes up six bills, including two on charter school authorization, when it meets at 9 a.m. • The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee will consider three substantive bills and several local funding measures when it meets at 11:30 a.m.

Other school news

Congratulations. East Lake High art teacher Eileen Iacobucci is Pinellas County’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.

Try, try again. The Broward County School Board will redo its meeting to select superintendent finalists, after concerns arose about its original vote, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

No consent. A Marion County School Board member wants more discussion of consent agenda items, suggesting under the current process consent means sweeping items under the carpet, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

The Santa Rosa County school district set a new priority of hiring more guidance counselors. It asked the state for permission to use its federal stimulus funds to pay for the costs, the Pensacola News Journal reports.

Florida International University ex-president Mark Rosenberg soon could be back on the payroll as a faculty member. His salary could be $377,000, the Miami Herald reports.

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

Before you go ... Are you ready for a frosty weekend? Watch out for frozen iguanas! (They’re not dead.)

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