Florida lawmakers to continue debate over CRT, LGBTQ issues in schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Florida Rep. Bryan Avila, standing, is the House sponsor of legislation to protect school students from feeling guilt or discomfort over race lessons.
Florida Rep. Bryan Avila, standing, is the House sponsor of legislation to protect school students from feeling guilt or discomfort over race lessons. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Feb. 8, 2022

The big story: Florida is among the nation’s most diverse states.

Census data show about one in five residents was born outside the United States. More than a quarter of Floridians are Hispanic or Latino, while about 19 percent are Black or multiracial and about 53 percent are white. Several major cities have significant LGBTQ communities.

That diversity is being tested as state lawmakers debate hotly contentious proposals to limit school discussions about race, gender and related topics. The divide will be on display again at 9 a.m. today, as the Senate Education Committee considers SB 1834, legislation titled “Parental Rights in Education” that has been labeled by some the “Don’t Say Gay” bill because of a provision to ban conversations about gender identity in elementary schools.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Monday that he thinks the measure is necessary, to ensure parents know what’s going on with their children — though he acknowledged the scope of any perceived problem is small, Florida Politics reports.

Later in the day, the House Education and Employment Committee will take up DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” bill (HB 7) that aims at preventing students from feeling discomfort or guilt over race lessons. The committee meets at 3:30 p.m.

Some observers and educators have raised the concern that the state’s reputation as a place for people of all types is falling victim to fierce partisan identity politics in ways it might never recover from. “Our party has become mean, and driven by emotion on whom we dislike,” Alex Patton, a Gainesville-based Republican consultant and pollster, told the Washington Post. “But that is the driving force in American politics right now.”

Read the Washington Post story here.

It’s not just Florida. States across the nation are grappling with proposals to ban books and eliminate “critical race theory” from the schools. Teachers are attempting to teach accurate history lessons even as the arguments rage on, Insider reports.

Hot topics

Transgender student rights: A challenge to Florida’s new law preventing transgender girls from participating in school sports is on hold while another Florida lawsuit on transgender rights moves through the federal courts, the News Service of Florida reports.

Academic freedom: University of Florida faculty members say the school has a checkered past when it comes to protecting open discourse, WUFT reports.

Teacher departures: A 28-year Duval County educator explained why he retired early, even though it meant foregoing $200 a month in pension funds, WCJT reports. • Lee County school district officials are studying reasons for teacher resignations, and seeking solutions, WFTX reports.

School safety: Families of the Parkland school shooting victims want more reforms to Florida’s school security laws, Newsy reports.

Financial literacy: Florida lawmakers continue to push for a financial literacy high school graduation requirement, Florida Politics reports. They’ve been trying for more than a decade.

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The Lake Wales charter school system’s superintendent search is raising concerns. Some employees have questioned the integrity of the process, the Lake Wales News reports.

The St. Lucie County school district has a new superintendent. The School Board appointed its deputy superintendent to take the post without conducting a search, TC Palm reports.

Proposals are circulating to resume partisan elections for school board seats. Questions remain about whether voters without party affiliation would be able to participate in the process, WPEC reports.

Other school news

Florida conducts annual assessments on kindergarten readiness. The latest results show half of 4-year-olds met the reading and math expectations, WFLA reports.

Northwest Florida school districts have ongoing troubles finding bus drivers. Low pay remains a critical factor, WEAR reports.

Bay County is getting closer to reopening Oscar Patterson Academy, which closed after Hurricane Michael. A student designed the school’s new logo, the Panama City News Herald reports.

A TikTok video recorded in a Jacksonville private school restroom got some students suspended. It’s prompted a discussion about appropriateness of videos, and also about the types of discipline for such actions, WTLV reports.

“That’s not okay.” A Broward County high school teacher is under investigation after parents complained about an obscenity-filled audio recording of her talking to students, WSVN reports.

Don’t miss a story. The link to yesterday’s roundup is here.

Before you go ... What do you know about the role St. Augustine, Fla., played in the national civil rights movement? In 1964, the city geared up to celebrate its 400th anniversary. It became the site of marches, protests and violence as white supremacists confronted civil rights activists. Leaders including Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr. all came to the state to weigh in, just weeks before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Read more from the St. Augustine Record.

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